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 ‘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 🙂




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.


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).


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


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.


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


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 – 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


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!



Weekend food fest

Busy weekend doing thesis revisions… but there is always time for procrastinating (this time with baking) and then a fun filled evening food fest/ Eurovision screening with friends.

I’m a big fan of using up food that is already in the house….I’m not sure if this means I’m a tight-arse, or have been a student for too long. But I don’t like to waste food wherever possible. So, with some rapidly ripening bananas, and impending deadlines on my mind, it had to be afternoon tea baking of banana bread.


IMHO, it turned out pretty good (well, it tasted nice, and isn’t that all that counts?). Here is the recipe if ever you find yourself in need of an excuse to bake, or use up bananas. I try to use ingredients I already have, so feel free to alternate with something you have close to hand.

Banana Bread (adapted from recipe by David Herbert, The Perfect Cookbook)

1 1/2 cups plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon bicarb soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

approx 6 tablespoons coconut oil (I estimate this at the very end so it isn’t too oily; you may want to use softened butter or margarine instead – 100g)

1 cup brown sugar

2 eggs, beaten

2 large very ripe bananas, mashed

1/4 cup plain yoghurt

1/4 cup milk

(This is my lazy version; feel free to sift the flour etc, but I prefer to eat it sooner, so have taken some short cuts 🙂

Preheat oven to 170 degrees celsius. Prepare a loaf tin by lining with baking paper.

1. Place all dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, bicarb soda, salt and sugar) in a large bowl and stir.

2. Beat the eggs and add to mixture. Add yoghurt and milk.

3. Mash bananas in separate bowl, then add to mix. Stir through. At this stage it will be roughly combined, so add only as much oil as you think it needs so it will stir through easily. Once it is all combined, pour into tin.

Bake in oven for 1 hour, or until the top is a nice brown and the centre is set (check with skewer).

(My oven usually takes an extra 20 minutes, but perhaps you have a better oven than I do? If cooking for longer, check with skewer regularly so it doesn’t burn).

All going to plan you should end up with something like this:


Of course, this was consumed mere hours before a planned Eurovision screening/eat fest with some friends of ours… cue popping buttons!

Am I the only one who thought the zany brilliance of Romania was robbed?

We were certainly outraged! The only solution, copious amounts of sour cream (i.e.: Mexican Dip, and French Onion Dip)