Nollaig na mBan

Last Tuesday – January 6th – was Nollaig na mBan.  For the past six (or maybe seven?) years, I have celebrated the tradition in my home by inviting several of the wonderful woman I am pleased to know into our home for dinner, drinks and chat. This year was no exception. About a dozen women joined me for dinner (my girls scarpered upstairs with plates – feeling at the same time both too old and too young to be in the same room as the rest of us).   I cooked a few dishes. We had red lentils with sweet and sour sauce (I made the sauce first, then rinsed two cups of red lentils, covered them with cold water, brought it to the boil with a teaspoon of salt, turned the heat down low and let them simmer for 40 minutes, then added the sauce).  Then we had  Moroccan ‘chicken’ with green olives and lemons, carrots with orange and chickpeas (which Ishthara made), a spinach salad, idlis, mint sorbet and pears in caramel with blue cheese.   The recipes that haven’t already been posted on this blog are below:

Carrots with Orange and Chickpeas

500g of Carrots

50g of Butter

4 Garlic cloves

2 Teaspoons of cumin seeds

1 Tablespoon of oil

Zest of 1 orange and its juice

400g tin of chickpeas

1 Teaspoon of smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste.

Peel and bash or press the garlic.

Peel and slice the carrots into batons.

Drain the chickpeas.

Heat the butter and oil in a frying pan over a medium heat.

Add the cumin seeds and fry, stirring, until they brown slightly and release their fragrance.

Add the carrots and paprika and fry, stirring, for about ten minutes.

Turn the heat to low and add the garlic, orange zest, orange juice and chickpeas.

Cook until the chickpeas are heated through – about five minutes.

Remove from the heat and season with salt and pepper.

Spinach Salad

250g of Fresh spinach leaves

50g of Pine nuts

1 Tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

Splash of Olive Oil

This is so easy, I’m not sure it’s fair to call it a ‘recipe’.

Anyway……if you’re not using washed spinach leaves, then wash the leaves. Otherwise, tip them into a bowl.

Gently brown the pine nuts and add them to the spinach.

Drizzle enough olive oil into the bowl to make all the leaves glisten.

Gently shake the balsamic vinegar over the salad. Toss.

Mint Sorbet

300 mls of water

150 mls of sugar

20 Stalks of fresh mint

Strip the mint leaves from their stalks and rinse them in a sieve.

Bruise the leaves slightly with a pestle.

Put the sugar in a saucepan and pour the water over it.

Bring the sugar water to the boil and add the mint leaves.

Once the sugar has dissolved, remove the saucepan from the heat.

Leave the mint leaves to steep in the sugar-water for an hour or so.

Strain the mixture through a sieve into a plastic container and discard the mint leaves.

Once it has cooled, pop it into the freezer.

Leave overnight.

Remove from the freezer and, when the sorbet has started to thaw slightly, whizz it through your blender (or stab it a few times with your stick blender). This will improve the texture of the sorbet. Re-freeze.

About forty minutes prior to serving, move the sorbet to the fridge in order to ensure that it has thawed enough for you to get a spoon in to it between courses!

Pears in Caramel with Blue Cheese

100 mls of Water

200g of Sugar

300g cream

1 Tablespoon of Butter

1 Teaspoon of Ground Black Pepper

Pinch of Sea Salt

6 Pears

Unlike most of the recipes on this blog, this recipe serves six.

Halve the pears and scoop out the core and pips.

Put them on a baking tray, cut side down.

Heat your oven to 180 degrees and, when it’s hot enough, add your pears.

Leave them in the oven for about an hour, until they are browned and softened, but not squidgy and falling apart.

To make the caramel, heat a pot over a low-medium heat and pile the sugar in the middle of it.

Add the water and mix by gently shaking the pan rather than stirring the mixture (this prevents the sugar from crystallising). When the sugar is dissolved, crank your stove up to medium-high until it bubbles.

Keep shaking the pan slightly while the sugar-water bubbles away for about another five minutes. It will turn pale amber. This is the colour you want – if it gets any darker, it’s burnt and you’ll have to start again, which is a major PITA (pain in the ass).

Remove the saucepan from the heat and pour in the cream.

Continue to move the pan in a circular way to incorporate the cream.

Turn the stove back on low again to thicken the mixture.

Stir in the salt, pepper and butter.

Remove from the heat again and leave to cool.

The mixture will thicken as it cools.

When it’s time to serve, assemble the pears on a serving platter, reheat the sauce and transfer it to a jug.

Serve the pears with the jug of caramel and a plate of blue cheese for people to help themselves.

I’m sorry I have no pictures, but I completely forgot to take any of the food!


Yet Another Lentil Recipe & A Cauliflower Side

I am amazed by how versatile lentils are. There are so many types of lentils and there are so many different ways you can cook them that I’m pretty sure I could live on them if I had to and never get bored.

This lentil recipe is slightly spicier than other ones I’ve blogged, but it’s tasty. I have adapted it from a lentil dish a Sindhi friend of mine cooked up one Saturday morning in her apartment in Mumbai.

Again, this amount gave us enough for five main meals. The cauliflower is an Indonesian recipe that I made for no reason other than I had cauliflower and was missing Jakarta.

Indonesian cauliflower & bombay lentils

Hot Lentils

200g of Mung Dhal (but any small lentils would do, I think)

1/2 Teaspoon of Turmeric

3 Teaspoon of Fresh Ginger

1 Tablespoon of Oil

Pinch of Salt

1 Tablespoon of Tamarind

1 Tablespoon of Brown Sugar

100g Butter or Ghee

2 Teaspoons of Panch Phoran

2 Tablespoons of Curry Leaves (Optional)

3 Green Chillies

Clean the lentils by rinsing them 3-4 times in fresh water.

Peel and finely chop the ginger.

Remove the curry leaves (if you’re using them) from the stalks and chop them (use scissors – it’s easier).

Chop the chillies (again, a scissors makes this job easier). Also, when handling chillies, be sure to wash your hands afterwards – chilli juice on any mucous membrane can really hurt! Alternatively, you can wear latex gloves or just put a light film of oil over your fingers. This creates a barrier between your skin and the chilli oil.

Put the cleaned lentils, turmeric, 1 teaspoon of the fresh ginger, salt and the oil into about 500mls of water.

Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer for about 40 minutes. The lentils will not retain their shape. They will disintegrate, but not in a soupy way, and have a slightly creamy texture.

While the lentils are bubbling away, prepare the tamarind. Just pop the paste into about 250mls of boiling water and leave it there for about 20 minutes. If you don’t have tamarind, don’t fret; it lends a sour taste to the mixture (it aids digestion and has other health benefits like combating nausea, too) and has a slightly binding effect, but a splash of malt vinegar will suffice – or you can leave it out altogether.

Push the tamarind paste through a small sieve into the water and remove the stones.

Heat the butter or ghee in a small frying pan and add the panch phoran, curry leaves, chillies and the rest of the chopped ginger.

Fry this spice mix gently for about 2 minutes, being careful not to let it burn.

Pour this cooked spice mixture over the lentils and stir to mix well.

I added a tablespoon of coconut chutney to this but didn’t include it in the list of ingredients because it’s not something that’s easy to come by. I think, if you like coconut, a tablespoon of grated coconut, toasted, might add the same flavour.

Bungkul Santan (Cauliflower in Coconut Milk)

1 Head of Cauliflower (about 350g)

1 400mls Can of Coconut Milk

1/2 can of Tomatoes (about 200g)

1 Teaspoon of Ground Pepper

1 Teaspoon of Chilli Powder

1 Teaspoon of Turmeric

1 Teaspoon of Salt

2 Tablespoons of Coconut Oil (or Sunflower Oil or any Vegetable Oil)

Remove the leaves and tough green stalks from the cauliflower.

Separate into florets and wash.

Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok and add  spices.

Cook them over a medium heat until they release their fragrance. Take care not to let them burn. If they do, you need to start again, because burnt spices really will run the taste of your dish.

Add the cauliflower and saute for about  for about five minutes on a medium heat until covered in spices and starting to brown.

Add the coconut milk and tomatoes.

Turn the heat up until the mixture just comes to the boil.

Turn the heat down low again, cover and cook, simmering for about ten minutes.

Add the tamarind and cook for another 10 minutes or until the cauliflower is al dente.