Moroccan Spiced Lentil Cakes

Ingredients:

100g of red lentils

100g of plain flour (or gram flour for a gluten free alternative)

100g of rinsed and drained chickpeas

2 tsp of ground cumin

the juice and rind of half a lemon

2 handfuls of fresh coriander

a clove of garlic, crushed

2 spring onions, roughly chopped

1/2 tsp of harissa

100g of walnuts or cashews

salt and pepper

2 tsp of za’atar

olive oil to coat and extra flour to roll the dough

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Then rinse the lentils twice and place in a saucepan. Cover with enough cold water to just submerge them and cook on a medium heat uncovered for 15 minutes. You may need to add a little water every so often to keep them just submerged and to stop them sticking. You want your lentils to be softened but not pureed otherwise your cakes will disintegrate into mush!
  2. When the lentils are cooks, drain away any excess water and place them into a blender or food processor with all the other ingredients.
  3. Pulse the mix until smooth. You want a tacky dough consistency so you may need to add a little more flour if your lentils were too mushy.
  4. When the dough it thick enough to hold it’s shape roll out 10 golfball sized patties from the mix on a floured surface. place on an greaseproof paper lined baking sheet and flatten slightly with your palm. Brush the tops with oil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes, then flip them over and bake for another 15 minutes before serving.

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Shantaram – Gregory David Roberts

“It doesn’t always help us to love the world, but it does prevent us from hating the world.”

 Even since I was tiny, I’ve been a fast reader and so for me with books, the bigger the better. With a two hundred pager I’m absorbed into its world of thick, black type and spat back out again in a matter of hours. So when I came across Shantaram in the corner of an English book shop in Prague, in all it’s nine-hundred and forty four page glory, you could say it was easy to pick my next read.

Its length is daunting. If you were looking for light entertainment and a cheap, quick laugh I would suggest looking elsewhere. Shantaram weighed down my bag considerably for the week of bus journeys and train-rides that it accompanied me.

It’s a somewhat memoir, an autobiography of sorts. The characters are mismatched, patchwork people, assembled from the memories of the author. But elaborated truth or not it is a beautiful world that Roberts creates. It’s simple language arranged in a way that draws you into his India so fully and completely that I found myself making mug after mug of chai on our stove so I truly could immerse myself in the four-dimensional experience.

Roberts has a clawed hold over your emotions but he isn’t clumsy with them. The tragic deaths of characters are not drawn out, lengthy, but short, sweet and all the more painful for it. He makes you feel everything all at once, its beautifully emotionally relatable despite the absurdity of the protagonist. I certainly never thought the word “relatable” would fall from my lips when talking about an ex-convict and heroin addict. But I think what I mean is that the narrative is quite simply a human account from the viewpoint of the extraordinary.

“I was a revolutionary who lost his ideals in heroin, a philosopher who lost his integrity in crime, and a poet who lost his soul in a maximum security prison.”

I hate to give away plots in a review so I’ll sum up the scenery that Roberts sets. Its narrated by Lin, an ex-convict fleeing the Australian authorities who seeks out India as a bustling melting pot of beggars, thieves, mafia, actors and lovers in which to suitably disappear. Led by an unlikely friend, Prabaker, Lin becomes enveloped in Bombay, an otherworldly unlikely utopia, where philosophical insight and just morality are served up from the unlikeliest of sources. Where you question the criminality of thieves and the happiness of rich men.

It contains some nuggets of pure gold life advice every couple of pages. They are understated and so all the more sweet. Usually dished out by those on the fringes of the slums or at the top of the criminal ladder, each one an unlikely source for philosophical insight.

“Anything that can be put in a nutshell should remain there”

If it fails to do anything else Shantaram fills you with an immense love for India, not romanticized but a gritty reality of simple love that flourishes in the most desolate poverty. It is powerful, insightful and thought provoking, however cliché. Roberts’ depictions of Bombay, a city of extremes, leave the air around you smelling of cardamom and dust long after you’ve closed its pages.

“The past reflects eternally between two mirrors -the bright mirror of words and deeds, and the dark one, full of things we didn’t do or say.”

 

Couscous and Coriander Falafels

The problem with baking falafels instead of deep frying them (the much more unhealthy but deeply satisfying method) is that I can never get them as crispy as they become when you fry them! So obviously instead of accepting this fact I decided to try and experiment with my mix until I managed to achieve the perfect baked falafel. Couscous seems to be the decisive element in determining the crispiness and I almost prefer the texture it gives to the falafel, which admittedly is something like that Paxo stuffing mix your family uses at Christmas but don’t let that put you off! Now this recipe steers perhaps a little too far from the traditional falafel for any die-hard falafel enthusiasts because chickpeas form only a tiny portion of the ingredients but I promise you although they’re not conventional they are pretty good.

Ingredients:

100g of cooked chickpeas (about half a can)

1 spring onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic

1/2 a courgette, grated

100g of couscous, cooked according to instructions

2 tsps of cumin

a handful of fresh coriander

the juice and rind of half a lemon

1/4 cup of sunflower seeds

1 tbsp of olive oil

1 tbsp of za’atar

1 tbsp of tahini

salt and pepper

1/3 cup of plain flour

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius then very simple, simply place all the ingredients, minus the flour, into a food processor or blender and blend until smooth.
  2. Add the flour to the mix until its tacky but not wet. Add a little more flour if its still too wet, you don’t want it to fall apart when you roll it.
  3. Finally line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and roll ping-pong ball sized balls of mixture and bake for 25-30 minutes until they are browned slightly on the bottoms.
  4. Remove from the oven and serve.

Temple Dal and Almond Kofta

Dal Ingredients:

250g of red lentils

100g of mung dal

2 tsps of turmeric

2 tsps of garam masala

1 tsp of ground cumin

the juice and rind of two lemons

2 tbsps of coconut cream

1 tbsp of tomato puree

Dal Masala:

1 small white onion, finely diced

a thumb sized piece of ginger grated

 

1 red chilli

a thumb sized piece of ginger grated

Dal Temper:

5 small curry leaves

2 tsps of cumin seeds

a tbsp of vegetable oil

1 tsp of black mustard seeds

Method:

  1. Rinse and drain the lentils through twice and then add the lentils and two litres of cold water into a deep pan and leave to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. After soaking place on a medium heat and bring to the boil. As the lentils begin boiling you should notice that a white or yellow froth starts to form on the top of the water. Using a spoon gently scrape this off and discard (you may need to do this several times).
  3. When the lentils are boiling place the lid on the pan and lower the heat and allow to simmer for forty minutes adding a little water if the lentils become too thick.
  4. In a separate frying pan gently fry off the onion and ginger and then add along with the garam masala, ground cumin, chilli, coconut cream, tomato puree, turmeric and lemon juice and rind to the dal.
  5. Allow to simmer for another ten minutes. Meanwhile heat up the oil in a small pan and add the temper ingredients and fry on a high heat for a minute.
  6. When the temper is spitting pour the contents of the frying pan into the dal and remove from the heat, stir and it is ready to serve.

I served the dal with wild rice, rotis and these vegan chandra malai koftas from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s recipe on The Guardian website. You can check out the recipe HERE.

Blueberry, Tahini and Toasted Coconut Porridge

Ingredients:

1 part rolled oats to 3 parts liquid (I use 1/2 a cup of oats-1/2 a cup of freshly squeezed orange juice-1 cup water for one serving)

a tablespoon of desiccated coconut

a tablespoon of ground flaxseed

a tablespoon of pecans, roughly chopped

a handful of fresh or frozen blueberries

a teaspoon of tahini

a teaspoon of nut butter

a tablespoon of maple syrup

Method:

  1. Heat a small frying pan on a medium heat and toast the coconut until it starts to brown. Then place in a small bowl and set aside to top the porridge later.
  2. Place the same pan back on the heat and add the pecans and roast slightly until starting to soften a little. Then remove from the heat.
  3. Add the oats, liquid, flax and blueberries into a small saucepan with a lid and place on a gentle heat, stirring constantly. (If you decide not to use orange juice, add something to sweeten the oats mixture with such as honey, sugar or maple/agave syrup).
  4. Continue stirring on the lowest heat for 5-8 minutes, or until it forms a thick paste consistency simply adding more water if it looks like it’s sticking. I think it’s best to play porridge by eye because depending on the liquid or the type of oats it can take longer to cook, not to mention porridge consistency is a very personal preference!
  5. When the porridge is done, simple plate up and drizzle with toppings, I like to add a little bit of grated orange zest as well at this point and a little splash of plant/nut milk as well. Enjoy.

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Beetroot Falafel Bowl

There is a constant debate over our family dinner table whenever we are reunited, in which we argue wherever possible that anything shop-bought you could probably make for cheaper yourself. It often escalates quickly, like the time we decided that making yogurt in our kitchen would definitely be a financially pragmatic and beneficial move, (I can confirm that following that heated debate the tubs of Onken were resolutely added back into the shopping trolley because quite honestly no-one has time to make yogurt vocationally alongside a job, school, studies, general life). However I do, where possible, attempt to make things from scratch whether it’s bread, peanut butter or muesli, and it does save money where it takes up time. Time-wise, when it comes to procrastination from essay writing I can confirm there is nothing better than deciding that Sainsbury’s 60p pitta breads are horrendously overpriced and you could definitely make some that were decidingly better tasting for far cheaper. To the point I’m making, if it’s possible to decipher is that I’ll never try and knock the principle of homemade over branded products, they do taste better and the process of cooking from scratch is therapeutic, relaxing and ultimately ego-boosting. However I have learnt my lesson from the yogurt experience and now cooking for me is no longer a stand against all things shop bought, but rather a way to wind down after uni, and if three hours making pitta breads is my way of de-stressing then so be it, it is three hours well spent.

Falafel Ingredients:

1 raw beetroot

3 spring onions

1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed thoroughly

1 tsp of ground cumin

a handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

2 tbsp sunflower seeds

1 tbsp of tahini

2 tsp za’atar

1 tbsp olive oil

1-2 tablespoons of flour.

salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius, roughly chop the spring onions, then peel the beetroot and grate it.
  2. Place all the ingredients minus the flour into a food processor or blender and pulse until a smooth consistency, or slightly less for a falafel with a bit more texture. You can do this by hand if you mash the chickpeas with the olive oil and finely chop the rest of the ingredients but be warned this takes a little more manpower and time.
  3. Transfer the mixture to a large mixing bowl and add the flour, just enough to make the mixture hold it’s shape when rolled in the palm of your hand. (I like to put my mixture into the fridge to firm up for an hour or so if I have the time but this isn’t essential).
  4. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper and roll the mixture into golfball sized balls and then press them down slightly into thick discs. Then bake in the oven for 15 minutes before flipping and baking on the other side for another 15 minutes.
  5. Serve with tabouleh, pitta, hummus, or like mine are here, with quinoa, a puy lentil tagine and a drizzle of tahini.

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The Art of Seeing

Years ago a family friend told us that they made it a daily task to write every day, to set aside fifteen minutes from the daily grind and just write. I feel like this is a principle a lot of people, not just writers could derive benefit from. It helps to visualise and contextualise the workings of your mind like the process of journalling but for me much more appealing because it engages your creativity as well. I write often but I rarely share it with anyone other than myself because I think you reach an age where you’re met by laughter at the idea of storytelling. Storytelling used to be the crux of our society, and I think we have lost a wonderful part of our ability to create these other worlds outside reality in our constant pursuit of fact. Mostly my writing is a plot-less drivel about whatever topic is currently on my mind and so I thought this time I’d share it because in doing so I lose nothing. This was formulated in the middle of the night on my phone in the notes app because the desire to put pen to paper doesn’t always arrive at convenient moments! I’ve been thinking about body dysmorphia, about the way we view ourselves constantly through the eyes of others. This is a big topic in the news at the moment and its played around in my head a lot recently. I think ultimately we are all wondering, in a world where photoshop and editing software make anything possible, what it means to really see ourselves and others. For people who suffer with body dysmorphia, for those who truly do see themselves differently from how we view them as observers, how does this new era of possibility affect them? Where do we draw the line between art and prejudice when it comes to body type and how can we as individuals change the way we see?

The Art of Seeing

She viewed herself throughout the periscopic lens of an observer but it was twisted, bent by heat and time so that, with watering eyes, she saw herself in waxy disfigurement. A tiny shard of mirror nestled in her cornea so small it sparkled. Pictures views in kaleidoscopic multitude twisted in her gaze. Colours too bright, edges too sharp while other soft. Where was the faery figure and the waif like torso? She saw deconstructed limbs and the sharp crook of noses. She can’t count the times on hands or feet where her analytic introspection has not left tears streaking crevices through downy cheeks. They have made salt flats of her cheekbones.

She didn’t crave reassurance that the disfigurements she glanced were beauty, merely assurance that through other eyes things would, could appear beautiful. The tragedy of her artists gaze, so quick to spot the iridescent brightness of everything outside her peripheries.

I wish to see myself. She says. truly, deeply through the eyes of others. To lose this chink of shattered glass that presses on my conscious gaze. I want to see simply and simply see, Observe with such a view that all seems plain, nothing illuminated, and nothing dulled.

Apple, Hazelnut and Quinoa Porridge

Ingredients:

2 green apples

2 tablespoons of sultanas

2 tablespoons of hazelnuts, halved

50g of rolled oats

50g of quinoa

100ml of oat milk

200ml of water

1 tablespoon of agave syrup

2 tablespoons of sunflower seeds

2 teaspoons of cinnamon

a teaspoon of peanut butter, a generous drizzle of maple syrup and oat milk to top.

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius. Place the oat milk, water, oats and quinoa and agave syrup into a saucepan on the stove on a medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer and then reduce the heat. Cook, stirring regularly for 30 minutes adding a little water if it starts to stick to the pan. You want the porridge to be thick, really thick! I like this porridge to stick to the spoon when you pick it up so it’s more like a pudding than the thin watery oatmeal you get in a packet.
  2. Meanwhile put the hazelnuts onto a baking tray and place in the oven for 5-8 minutes until they are golden brown.
  3. Peel and slice the apples into rough 2cm cubes and then place them in a saucepan with 50ml of cold water, the cinnamon and sultanas. Bring to the boil then put the lid on the pan and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the apples are soft and breaking down, checking them every so often to make sure they aren’t sticking. If they start to burn add a little more water tablespoon by tablespoon. You’re aiming for a puree like consistency.
  4. When all the components are cooked then you can start layering up the porridge. Start with the stewed apple then add on heaped wooden spoons full of porridge. Top with the roasted nuts, sunflower seeds and then drizzle over maple syrup and a liberal amount of oat/almond/soy milk. Finally you can add a dollop of coconut yogurt if you fancy.

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Simple Aubergine and Harissa Polenta

Lets get one thing straight, polenta can be awful. Polenta can be really really bland and bad if you leave it bland because it’s meant to be dressed up and served with sauces and rich flavours that enhance it and make it taste amazing. This recipe uses lemon as the main flavouring for the polenta itself and then a rich, fresh tomato sauce helps cut through it. It’s similar to a dish I was served in Krakow, Poland last summer and it’s incredibly versatile. Once polenta is cooked it forms a thick porridge consistency but then if you allow it to cool in a deep tray, evenly spread out it will set and then you can slice it and it takes on a whole new texture and role in a meal. So I hope this recipe can convince all of you who are vastly put off by eating yellow gloop for dinner that in reality polenta is an underrated carbohydrate on the whole.

Ingredients:

150g of polenta (to serve two people or one serving and set the rest).

600ml of boiling water

the juice and rind of one lemon

a tsp of salt

a tbsp of olive oil

4 large beef tomatoes

a tbsp of pine nuts

a handful of torn fresh basil leaves

2 tsps of za’atar

2 tsps of harissa paste

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 tbsp of worcester sauce

1 aubergine, diced into small chunks

1 tbsp of tomato puree

1 tbsp of capers

2 tsps of caster sugar

Method:

  1. Place the tomatoes into a bowl of boiling water for four to five minutes until their skins split. Then peel away the skins and chop roughly into quarters and place in a saucepan with the olive oil, aubergine and spring onions.
  2. Gently fry all on a medium heat until the tomatoes begin to stick then add half a mug of water, bring to the boil and cover.
  3. After around ten minutes the tomatoes should have begun to soften so begin to break them apart with a spoon. Add in the tomato puree, harissa, sugar, basil, za’atar and worcester sauce. Then stir, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover again for twenty minutes.
  4. To make the polenta bring the 600ml of water to a boil on a medium heat in a saucepan then sprinkle in the polenta stirring continuously. Keep stirring for ten minutes. The polenta should quickly thicken into a creamy porridge-like consistency.
  5. After ten minutes add the lemon juice, a drizzle of olive oil, salt and the lemon rind, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cover the polenta for thirty minutes. Every ten minutes stir vigorously to stop the polenta sticking and then re-cover.
  6. When you are ready to serve plate up the polenta and then top with the tomato sauce and some extra basil leaves and toasted pine nuts.
  7. The leftover polenta will set in the container you leave it in so put it in a sealed container and then you can cut into slices and serve cold again with warm sauce the next day.