Quest for the perfect – dhal recipe

Another one of my long running quests is the search for the perfect dhal. Perhaps a bit shamefully, my favourite to date has been from one of those all you can eat, buffet style Indian ‘restaurants’ – so creamy, spicy and delicious. But how to replicate this at home? All of my previous efforts had been too soupy – I like my dhal thick, and stew-like – ready to be scooped onto waiting papadums.

When the nights turned cold again, I wanted something spicy and comforting. Time to add another contender to the quest for the perfect dhal recipe.

I think this time I got closer than ever before, especially in terms of texture. This dhal was definitely ‘healthier’ than what you would get if eating out – a lot less oily, and more of a fresh tomato flavour. I also added some kale to get some greens into the meal, which was a great addition – the robust nature of kale can stand up to quite a lot of cooking and so worked well.

Dhal in progress - clearly I lack the ability to cook small servings!

Dhal in progress – clearly I lack the ability to cook small servings!

Red Lentil Dhal 

(adapted from taste.com.au ‘Red lentil dhal with spinach’)

1 cup dried red lentils, washed and drained

1 cup chickpeas or kidney beans (I used canned because I had them; feel free to use dry, or omit altogether)

a decent shake of cumin

1 tbsp turmeric

1 red chilli + a few shakes chilli powder (adjust to taste)

1 tbsp sunflower, or other vegetable oil

1 onion, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp grated fresh ginger

400g canned chopped tomatoes + 4 finely chopped fresh tomatoes (again, the fresh tomatoes can be omitted; I wanted to use some up!)

1 tsp caster sugar

150g kale (or baby spinach)

rice, papadums, naan bread, chutney to serve (if desired).

Let’s Cook!

1. Rinse the lentils. Once rinsed, put into a saucepan, cover with water and simmer for 5 minutes, or until soft. Drain.

2. Put the rice on to steam. In a large frypan, add oil and spices, with onion, garlic and ginger. Cook until the onions soften.

3. Add the tomatoes, sugar and drained lentils, and other beans if using. Simmer for 15 minutes, adding kale about 5 minutes from end. Stir regularly to ensure it isn’t sticking – add water if needed.

4. Once everything is tender, serve with rice and other goodies if desired.

warming winter goodness

warming winter goodness

Finally a dhal I can feel good about eating! This hit the spot, but I have a feeling the quest for the ultimate dhal will continue until I can replicate the unhealthy oily version… but for now this is a good start 🙂

 

 

 

Sydney Adventures – SUFF launch, ‘The Room’ screening and more vegie burgers

Cult movies are a big love of mine, especially those with audience participation. Almost everyone has had the ubiquitous Rocky Horror Show experience, complete with dressing up, singing the songs, and yelling at the screen.

Last night I was super excited to be attending the launch of the 2013 SUFF (Sydney Underground Film Festival) program, complete with FREE pizza, drink AND screening of The Room, which is turning 10 this year. For reasons unclear even to me, I am a huge fan of this film.

For those of you who haven’t seen it, this film is almost indescribable – overwrought, tragic melodrama is probably the best I can do. It must be seen to be believed. A film that cost $6 million to produce, but looks like it should have been made for $2.50. A lead man so repulsive the budget was probably blown on the lead actress’ (and I use the term ‘actress’ loosely) salary, to convince her to shoot the frequent, repulsive love scenes.  A ‘narrative’ which is so non sensical that audiences members are frequently heard to yell ‘Who the f*!k are you?’ to previously unseen characters. Set decorations which have led to audience members bringing their own plastic cutlery to screenings. Not to mention the game of football, whilst wearing tuxedos.

If these teasers haven’t tempted you to seek out the film, the audience participation might. Like The Rocky Horror Show, the films’ perceived deficiencies have led to ‘call and response’ amongst the audience, where, when a certain line or action occurs onscreen, the audience responds in kind. Thus the plastic cutlery.

As the audience consisted of supporters of SUFF and a number of repeat viewers, this was a particularly rambunctious, and thus, extremely enjoyable performance/screening. Prior to the screening, a preview of the 2013 SUFF program was shown, and there is a number of really great features that I look forward to seeing there – I’d encourage you to check it out! www.suff.com.au

 

The aftermath of 'The Room' screening

The aftermath of ‘The Room’ screening

All of the melodrama, yelling and laughter made myself and Mr A. hungry for a late dinner. We ended up at Grill’d World Square, which was one of the limited late night options on a school night.

Grill'd World Square - very keen on the industrial decor!

Grill’d World Square – very keen on the industrial decor!

But hey! This gave me the opportunity to indulge my on going obsession with vegie burgers. And I had quite a good one the ‘Garden Goodness’ burger, a mixed veg pattie on a really delicious, super fresh bun with some quality condiments, like a avocado/basil-y sauce, and crisp salad. Although on this occasion I think Mr A.’s choice was superior – the ‘Field of Dreams’ burger. It’s hard to go past a giant mushroom on a burger. I’d rate it a 7/10 (a bit expensive, and does not come with chips, they have to be bought separately). The chips were pretty awesome though, chunky with herb mix? Tick.

Grill'd Garden Goodness burger and chips = top late night eating

Grill’d Garden Goodness burger and chips = top late night eating – loved the red tin jug too!

All in all, a really enjoyable night out, especially for a Wednesday (school night!). Also appreciated the lights decorating the concrete courtyard at World Square on the walk to the station.

Blurry 'art-sy' pic of the lights at World Square

Blurry ‘art-sy’ pic of the lights at World Square

 

 

Strange stress relief tactic #1 – baking cookies

It’s strange that I had never baked cookies before… I’ve had plenty of stress in the past year.

But apparently it took the health scare of darling hound #2 (DH2) to bring out the strong need to bake. Immediately. Despite the fact my stomach was in knots. And I hadn’t eaten anything else. So last Monday was the start of ‘bake cookies to forget’ week.

Image

While it didn’t help me forget, it did (at least temporarily) soothe the savage beast within, and I did eat (several) of these.

Here is the recipe if you want to give these a go – they have that wonderful soothing ‘rustic’ homemade look and feel (i.e.: they are very unprofessional to look at, but they *are* tasty) … and really, in times of ‘need’ that’s all that matters!

Nutty Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

adapted from How it all Vegan! by Sarah Kramer

(a note – while I am not vegan, I did stick fairly faithfully to the vegan ingredient list, with the exception of the chocolate chips – feel free to exclude, or use vegan chocolate chips if desired. I also excluded cinnamon, nutmeg and ground ginger because I wanted something plain, and did not have these items on hand).

Ingredients

1 cup flour

3/4 cup rolled oat flakes

1/2 cup sugar

1 tsp baking powder

1/3 cup olive oil spread (or other margarine/butter)

1/4 cup almond butter (or other nut butter)

2 eggs, or replacement (I used 6 tbsp apple sauce)

a few drops vanilla essence

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup chocolate chips (optional)

N.B – 3 tbsp apple sauce = 1 egg

Method

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees C. In a large bowl, stir together all of the ingredients (feel free to sift all of the dry ingredients and mix the wet in a separate bowl and then combine; I wanted speed and less washing up 😉

2. Once well combined, drop mounds (one heaped tablespoon should do it) on a non stick baking tray, leaving room between them for expansion (don’t follow my lead here and cut corners, or you will end up with one giant cookie – perhaps not a bad outcome?). You will note here that I used baking paper – I was using ‘old school’ non stick trays – however you won’t get that really crunchy underbelly on the cookie.

3. Bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden. If you like your cookies crunchy, leave in the oven for a few more minutes.

Image

Enjoy with coffee or tea and hopefully your troubles will seem a little further away.

Image

Quest for the perfect Vego sausage roll

Upon my almost daily visit to the supermarket yesterday, I was delighted to see that Woolworth’s are branching out their range of vegetarian frozen goods. I was particularly excited to see the appearance of the Linda McCartney range, which I had always been quite keen to try. First off the blocks and into the trolley were the vego sausage rolls – I have a longstanding quest to find the ‘perfect’ faux sausage roll 🙂

Image

 

Now I know that faux-meat products aren’t for everyone, and that there is debate about the necessity of these products, and whether they make the statement that a vegetarian diet is inadequate. I would never tell anyone else what to do with their lives, or eating preferences. For me, these kinds of meat substitutes serve a purpose (i.e.: nostalgia – I used to love sausages rolls as a meat eater) – and if it serves to have people re think eating meat, or even eating a little less, I think they have a place *gets off soap box*

So anyway – I have tried a number of vegetarian sausage rolls, always in the quest for something that tastes like (my memory of) the ‘real thing’. These ones came close. The Linda McCartney rolls have the added bonus of being vegan, unlike the front runners in my books, the Quorn brand sausage rolls.  The pastry was great, not too thick, and melt in your mouth buttery style consistency – next time I plan to cook them a little longer so they get a really crispy pastry going on. They weren’t too greasy either, which can sometimes be a turn off. The filling was tasty, and certainly had the ‘sausage-y’ flavour going on. All in all, I think these made a nice winter weekend treat (we had them as an entree), and would give them an 8.5 out of 10 – definitely a respectable score. The quest continues….

Image

Current obsessions – vegie burgers

I might be a little late getting on the ‘food truck’ bandwagon, but now I am on nothing can stop me.

See, my current obsession is vegie burgers, and it all started after my pursuit of the Vegie Patch van. For the last few weeks it had been at Reverse Garbage on a Tuesday, and I had made plans to meet a friend there for a study break. So the plan was in place for a lovely, sunny winters day. All was going well until we rocked up at Reverse, and no van. But we were not to be deterred! After asking, we found out it was down at Sydney Uni, and so off we went…

DSC_0027

 

It was definitely worth the drive. I had the hot tip from a friend at Reverse that the zucchini burger was ‘mindblowing’. How can you go past that recommendation? Study makes the body crave carbs (so I believe 🙂 so I also ‘needed’ a serve of the sweet potato chips, and a homemade lemonade. Unfortunately most of the lemonade was lost to the slanting turf, but the small amount I tasted was great, with the classic tart flavour. And check this out for a burger:

DSC_0031

Just thinking about this is making my mouth water… along with memories of the basil-mayo sauce on the sweet potato chips *cue Homer Simpson drooling sound*

DSC_0030

 

Maybe a little expensive at nearly $20 all up, but as a treat this was totally worth it. The food, great company and inspiring, learned surroundings of Sydney Uni helped get more work done when I dragged myself home, so I definitely can’t complain! As soon as this rain clears, I plan to do it again 🙂

DSC_0037

 

DSC_0024

 

Passionfruit Butter Cake

Today I am starting #blogjune – a month of updating my blog every day for a month. I’m really looking forward to seeing what other bloggers come up with, and reading some thought provoking, witty and insightful stuff.

I’m not sure if this post is any of these, but I am easing myself in slowly.

May and June seem to be the months of birthdays, and as such, I find myself quite poor when it came to my Dad’s birthday today. Being notoriously hard to buy for anyway, a home made birthday cake seemed like a good way to at least acknowledge the day, and spend some time with him devouring it! Luckily, when I asked what type of cake he would like he opted for passionfruit, which I have been receiving weekly in our vegie box, so I was very happy to have a new way to incorporate passionfruit.

Here is what I came up with, to Dad’s specifications – a plain cake, with passionfruit icing. I ended up using two different recipes from Taste.com – one for the cake and one for the icing.

Passionfruit Butter Cake

125g butter, melted

300g (2 cups) self raising flour

1/3 cup butter milk (or a mixture of yoghurt and milk)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

220g (1 cup) caster sugar

1 teaspoon lemon zest

Icing:

125g cream cheese

50g butter, softened

3/4 cup icing sugar

4 passionfruit

1. Wiz ingredients together until smooth.

1. Preheat oven to 175 degrees. Mix ingredients together, and pour into a loaf tin, lined with baking paper. Bake for 45-50 mins, or until centre is cooked through.

2. When the cake has cooled, ice with icing (obviously!) and refrigerate to set before serving with tea or coffee.

Hopefully, you will end up with something that looks better than this, but tastes just as good!

IMG_1896

 

Sydney Adventures – Bondi Beach

For the last couple of months Sydney has been enjoying a beautiful, balmy autumn of sunny days and only slightly chilly nights. As an avowed summer lover, it made me very happy to get away with only wearing a cardigan for warmth. It’s called denial – “if it’s warm like this, maybe winter will never come”.

Well, that was last week. This week winter has truly set in, with cold grey days and rain.

I’m so pleased that I enjoyed the last days of autumn with another Sydney adventure – last week it was to Bondi Beach.

IMG_1766

 

My friend and I had a specific mission in mind – to go and see the amazing graffiti mural of Staffys on the Bondi Beach promenade. As a long time lover of these wonderful dogs, I was thrilled to discover on facebook that an amazing artist, Mr G. had painted a mural of 3 ‘Happy Staffys’ which promotes the work of Staffy Rescue. As soon as I found out, I knew we had to go for a visit, and we weren’t disappointed!

DSCF2101

 

DSCF2102

 

DSCF2103

 

As you can see, Mr G did a magnificent job of capturing the joyous spirit of the Staffy! And promoting Staffy Rescue is such a worthy cause as they do such important work. If you want to find out more about Mr G, his facebook page is: http://www.facebook.com/DOGATHON100  and Staffy Rescue: http://www.staffyrescue.org.au

While in Bondi I also had in mind another mission – a pie mission. I had heard great reviews about Bondi business Funky Pies, and their delicious vegan/vegetarian pies, so obviously, I had to pay a visit 🙂 I decided to take home some ‘Funky Chunky’ pies which I promptly devoured for dinner that night – this was a welcome alternative to a meat pie with mash – the Funky Chunky is chunks of shiitake mushrooms, with a layer of mash inside the pastry. And it went down an absolute treat!

IMG_1767

 

If you are nearby and need to stock up on other vegan/ vegetarian items (I noticed they also stocked the Tofutti range and also various faux deli meats), this is the place!

Funky Pies is at: 2/144-148 Glenayr Ave, Bondi Beach 2026  or http://funkypies.com.au