This has been the strangest year, weather-wise. The temperature has veered from the 40s to the low teens, without any particular rhyme or reason. One day I’m in a Sophie Loren-esque red sun dress and sandals licking gelati by the beach and the next day I’m in my black skinny jeans, long-sleeved Ts and trench coat, with both hands wrapped around a mug of hot chocolate.
All this unpredictability plays havoc with my cooking. I spot some lovely watermelon at the markets and decide to make a watermelon, mint, fetta & black olive salad but when the time comes to eat it the skies are grey and a brutal wind is shaking the trees. Who wants to eat a salad then? Not me. I’m craving slow-cooked casseroles, spicy curries and steaming hot noodle soups to warm me up from the inside.
Today was such a day. I had a day of writing and cooking planned and got straight into the writing part. But after two hours of fairly solid work I was chilled to the bone.
So I decided to warm myself up by cooking a spicy red lentil dahl. After a few minutes chopping and then frying the garlic, onion and ginger, I added some turmeric. The minute the golden spice hit the pan, the glorious fragrance filled the kitchen and instantly the house seemed infused with its warmth. I added lentils, tomatoes and garam masala before leaving the dahl to simmer while I heated up some rice and unhurriedly fried some pappodams.
And that was it: lunch was served. And it was bloody fantastic.
When it goes right, cooking is so thoroughly satisfying, so immensely gratifying. This dish took barely any time to make at all but it felt like a proper meal.
Perhaps I shouldn’t complain about the weather after all. Sometimes unpredictability can be a wonderful thing.
- 1.25 cup red lentils
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 x 3cm piece ginger, peeled and diced
- 3/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 can peeled tomatoes
- 2 cups hot water from the kettle
- 1 teaspoon garam masala
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Wash lentils in running water, discarding debris. Drain.
- Heat up large frypan until smoking hot and then add oil.
- Add onions, garlic and ginger and turn down to medium heat.
- Cook, stirring often, for few minutes until onion softens and then add turmeric, mixing in thoroughly.
- Continue cooking for a minute or so and then add lentils.
- Stir to combine and continue cooking for a minute before adding tomatoes, garam masala and water.
- Simmer over low heat for 15 minutes and then add salt and honey, mixing in thoroughly.
- Serve with steamed rice, pappodams and banana, yoghurt and honey raita.