Winter has arrived! Given the long, hot and humid summers we experience, we are making the most of the cooler weather by enjoying sleep-ins, a different daily rhythm, and lots of warming and satisfying food.
Admittedly, our winter in Queensland probably doesn’t really qualify as ‘winter’ for some … sunny days and crisp cool nights are the norm (with the last week of dreary rainy days being the exception).
In Chinese Medicine, winter time is the time for slowing down, reflection and consolidating energy – in preparation for the new beginnings of spring. The shorter days and cooler weather encourage us to do this. We also naturally look for warming and satisfying foods (in contrast to our desire for cooling and light meals in summer). For me, spending time preparing a warm and fulfilling meal on a late winters afternoon, feels like the natural thing to do.
A weekly meal for us over the winter months is red lentil and vegetable dahl. Dahl (or dal) is defined as lentils, legumes or peas that have been dried, hulled and split. The term is also used to describe dishes that are made from these dried legumes. Often, when you buy dahl from a store it will made of lentils (or another type of legume) and an abundance of spices/herbs. I like to include heaps of vegetables in my dahl as well. I think the most consistent and sound bit of nutrition advice around, is to include as much fresh produce in your diet daily. This recipe allows me to do this.
I wrote about lentils in my lentil and vegetable savoury roll recipe( Vegetable and Lentil Savoury Rolls … a great lunch box staple!). They are a great source of soluble and insoluble fibre. Insoluble fibre is great for digestive and heart health. Lentils also provide our bodies with good amounts of lean protein, folate, iron and magnesium.
This recipe is a nice and simple one-pot meal. As with many of my go-to recipes, I like the flexibility of being able to use what ever is in my fridge. So my dahl changes from week-to-week, depending on what vegetables I have available. The staple ingredients that I use each time though are lentils, onion, vegetable stock, ginger/galangal, garlic, turmeric, sea salt, pepper, lime or lemon juice and coconut milk (note there is no onion in the photo below!). We are lucky enough to grow our own galangal and turmeric so I use fresh when I can. We are due to harvest in the next week or so, so this time I have used ginger and powdered turmeric.
This week I included a combination of cauliflower, beans, carrot, broccoli and kale from the vegie patch.
I start by prepping all my vegetables by cutting them into small pieces and shredding the kale/spinach. I saute the onion in oil for around 5 minutes until translucent. I add the garlic, ginger/galangal and turmeric for the last minute and stir constantly.
I then add the lentils and vegetable stock and bring this to a simmer. After simmering for about 5-6 minutes, you will find the lentils have absorbed most of the liquid (see picture below). It is tempting to add more water at this stage but try not to! The vegetables will add considerable moisture to the mix later on in the cooking process. I find the key is to stir really regularly to stop the mixture from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Add a splash of water if you really need to!
After about 8 mins, I add the coconut milk and start adding my vegetables. I add the harder vegies that will take the most time to cook (carrots, cauliflower, etc). I put the lid on but stir very regularly. After another 5 mins I add the remaining vegies. I find enough liquid comes out of the vegies to keep the consistency right.
After 20 minutes the lentils will be cooked. If the vegies aren’t quite cooked, turn off the heat and put a lid on and let the dahl rest for 5 minutes. I serve the dahl with fresh lime juice, coriander and papadums.
Red Lentil and Vegetable Dahl
(This made enough for dinner for 2 adults and 1 child and lunch leftovers for 2 adults the next day :-))
- 1 1/2 cups red lentils (rinsed)
- 3 cups vegetable stock
- Fresh ginger/galangal – approximately 4-5 piece (finely grated)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Turmeric – 1 teaspoon dried, or 4 cm piece fresh (finely grated)
- 1/2 cup coconut milk
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 3 cups mixed vegetables, chopped
- 2 cups shredded spinach/kale
- Oil for cooking (I use coconut oil)
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Fresh lime juice, for serving
- Papadums, for serving
- Saute onion in a little oil for approximately 4 minutes until translucent in a large saucepan
- Add ginger/galangal, garlic and turmeric and stir constantly for 1 minute
- Add vegetable stock and lentils, stir well and bring to a simmer
- Simmer on a low heat for approximately 7-8 minutes, stirring very regularly. Add coconut milk and stir.
- Add hard vegetables (vegetables that are going to take the most time to cook), cover and cook for 5 minutes, stirring very regularly
- Add remaining vegetables and cook for an additional 5 minutes, covered, but stirring regularly
- Season with sea salt and pepper
- If at this stage your vegetables require more cooking time, take saucepan off heat, cover and sit for 5 minutes
- Serve with fresh lime juice, coriander and papadums