My mum is a crafty gal.
I think it’s the teacher in her. Both my Nana and mum were Kinder teachers who wouldn’t blink at eye at fashioning puppets or sewing a button. Oh, but my needle work is shameful, worthy of disownment. What I have inherited, however, is the love of and ability to craft nourishing meals. And I don’t think that’s such a shabby skill.
Lentils were frequently on the menu in our house when I was growing up. Not only are they a nutritious meal, they’re also incredibly thrifty. And filling! This last factor was particularly relevant, as my mum was dealing with three hungry kids with an ability to eat double servings like it was no thing. “This should have made more meals…” was forever coming out of my her mouth.
Mum’s lentils were cooked in a tomatoey, Mediterranean style and served over rice. Leftovers were eaten cold on buttered toast for breakfast. Everyone in my family adored them. My younger brother continues to receive lentil care packages and I continue to get jealous whenever I see them. Though I know mum would craft a pot for me in the blink of an eye if I were to ask.
These days I keenly make lentils for my husband and I whenever we need a quick, nutritious, thrifty and filling meal. I’ll honour my mum’s tradition and serve them over rice, but lately I’ve been mixing things up, heading away from tomato territory and into the spiced land of Dahl. It’s a completely nourishing meal, and though it changes slightly each batch I make (a touch less turmeric this time, maybe more ginger the next), it always retains that comforting quality. Homemade, crafted lentil love.
1 tablespoon Olive Oil
1 small Brown Onion, finely diced
2 cloves Garlic, crushed
1 heaped teaspoon grated fresh Ginger
1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1/2 teaspoon ground Turmeric
1/4 teaspoon Garam Masala
A pinch of ground Cinnamon
Sea Salt and freshly cracked Black Pepper
1/2 cup diced Red Capsicum
1 cup dried Split Red Lentils
3.5 cups Water (or half homemade stock, half water)
1 teaspoon Red Wine Vinegar
To serve: steamed rice and parsley
1. Rinse the lentils well and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and a good pinch of salt, turn the heat down and cook for ~5 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally. Add the cumin seeds and toast for ~30 seconds, followed by the turmeric, garam masala, cinnamon and a good crack of freshly cracked black pepper. Cook for a further 30 seconds, stirring, then add the garlic and ginger and cook for a minute or so until fragrant.
3. Add the capsicum and cook for a couple of minutes until softened (add a dash of water if the bottom is catching). Add the rinsed lentils and stir to coat. Add the water (or water and stock) and bring to a gentle boil, then simmer for ~20 minutes until the lentils have absorbed a lot of the liquid and are cooked (nicely soft but not too mushy).
4. Add the red wine vinegar, stir well and taste for seasoning (I salt the lentils at this point, the amount depending on whether I’ve used stock, etc). Serve over steamed rice, topped with some fresh parsley.