Masoor Dal – every day is a good day for Dal..

It is Christmas time – this is supposed to be the most quiet and thoughtful time of the year but as usual we are all running around totally stressed out, not sitting still, squeezing in one more play date, baking the last 10 trays of cookies, wrapping presents and finding even more stocking stuffers (I mean !really! how BIG can this stocking BE!!).

Soon it will all be Christmas menu, duck versus roast, hot versus cold, presents on the 24th versus on the 25th, Santa versus some other flying or sneaking ghostlike creature that brings presents – my family tradition versus yours… yes!! – certainly the most peaceful time of the year! Ha, just kidding..

Before everybody is off doing their family traditional meal for Christmas, I want to share this easy and delicious recipe that my whole family loves a lot – it keeps in the fridge for as long as 5 days, is vegan and all you need to serve it is some rice. So, when you are done with the Christmas weekend this year and don’t feel like cooking, you will be delighted that you still have this fancy and exotic one dish in your fridge! Consider doubling the recipe – make more and share the joy with some neighbors!

Merry before or after Christmas to you and your family!

Masoor Dal from India

feeds 6 – prep time: 1h (includes soaking time of lentils) – cooking time: 10 min

Image result for masoor dal images

1 cup of pink lentils (rinse then soak in water – this reduces the cooking time)

1 large yellow onion – chopped

2 medium size tomatoes – chopped

3 garlic cloves – crushed or finely chopped

1/2 inch fresh ginger root – finely chopped

1 green chili (jalapeno) – chopped

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/4 tsp chili powder

3/4 tsp garam masala powder

1 tsp turmeric

1.5 – 2 cups of water

1 Tbsp fresh coriander chopped

salt to taste

Juice of 1 Lemon

After soaking the lentils cook them for about 5 minutes – Tip: you can just soak them in a large pot so the soaking and cooking process are a bit smoother and don’t accumulate too many dishes to wash..

heat some sunflower oil in a large pot and fry the cumin seeds for about 2 minutes and keep stirring

add the onions until lightly browned – 2-3 minutes and keep stirring

add ginger and garlic and fry for 10 – 15 seconds

add green chili, all dry spices one by one and stir

add the chopped tomatoes and fry until the oil separates and the tomatoes are soft

add the drained and cooked dal and the water

salt and simmer for 6-7 minutes or longer if you like the consistency to be a bit mushier

remove the pot from the heat and add the coriander and the lemon juice

enjoy with some basmati or jasmine rice

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English Pub Grub – Bangers and Mash

It all started with a delayed flight and an hour spent at the airport bookstore… oh and the thought of some healthy entertainment on the weekend – of course – somewhere in the back of my head.. I started reading through a walking guide for London and I was intrigued by this simple way of combining sightseeing and culinary adventure with a healthy twist.. just like the lime in a Gin and Tonic! Finding these walking guides was a blessing and I put them to good use!

I really can’t decide which one I liked better… They are both well structured, have all the information on how to get to the starting point of the chosen walk and back and point out pubs for food and drinks on the way – just make a day out of it – it’s FUN!

Walking London by Andrew Duncan

The Rough Guide to Walks in London and the Southeast by Helena Smith

The city of London is a walkers paradise – living there, I spent hours walking the always slightly rainy streets of mostly east London with my partner and ending the day with a drink and dinner or lunch at a pub before we returned home.

Bonus: **One of our neighborhood pubs and favorite hangouts just got promoted to a Michelin star pub of the year – Congratulations The Marksman!! – It is well worth a visit my friends if you are planning a trip to the UK!

The Marksman pub

English Pubs usually serve comfort food and charcuterie platters besides bags of vinegar chips and salty nuts. Some of those Pub grub meals are fish and chips, Sunday Roast and Bangers and Mash. And what does feel better then a nice big bowl of sausage and mash smothered in gravy after coming in from the cold and drizzly air? Not much!

There are very many Sausage and Mash recipes out there – I am almost certain every family in England has their own recipe – this one is my style! A thick and sweet Gravy, mild Italian sausages and a creamy buttery mash! A Tastesplosion (I know that’s not really a word but it describes it best!!) I served this last night at my daughters birthday dinner for the whole family and it was well received, I say…

Bangers and Mash with sweet Onion Apple Gravy

feeds 8 – Prep time: 15min – Cook time: 30min

for the Mash:

6 medium Russets or Yukon Gold Potatoes – or 4 large baking potatoes

2 Tbsp Butter

1 cup of milk

salt to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Add peeled and cut (reduces cooking time) potatoes and cook until tender but still firm, about 20 minutes – drain. In a medium size saucepan heat butter and milk over low heat until butter is melted – add potatoes – using a potato masher slowly blend milk mixture into potatoes until it is smooth and creamy – add salt to taste (if the potatoes are cooked in salt water and already peeled they usually absorb enough salt to not have to add additional – I recommend tasting it before you add more….)

for the Sausages:

12 mild Italian sausages (store brand – or any sausage you think your family and friends would prefer!)

In a large pot bring water to a boil – poke sausages a few times with a fork and add to the water – gently simmer for 10 min or until cooked through – transfer sausages to a baking sheet – spray or brush with some cooking oil and broil until browned on both sides – don’t forget to turn sausages around for even color.

After the sausages are all nice and brown I cut them into mouth size pieces – that makes it possible to serve this dish as one bowl with only a spoon or a fork! Put them into an oven dish and return to your oven to keep warm – there is enough leftover heat in your oven after broiling to keep the sausages warm without setting a temperature.

for the gravy:

2 large red onions or sweet onions – sliced

2 – 3 apples – peeled, cored and sliced

1 Tbsp butter

2 Tbsp sugar

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

2 Pkg of Knorr Au Jus Gravy Mix (as sausages don’t make a nice dripping it is impossible to make the gravy from scratch – I find this an easy and tasty alternative)

Melt the butter in a skillet and fry the onions on medium high heat until translucent (about 5 minutes) – add the sliced apples and fry another 5 minutes then add the vinegar and sugar reduce the heat and wait for the mix to caramelize – meanwhile make the Au Jus in a small pot according to instructions on the package – add 3/4 of the Gravy to the onion and apple mixture, stir well and take off the heat – add salt to taste

I leave the last bit of Gravy for the pickiest eater in my family – which wants no no onion nor apples no no…

Now grab a bowl – spoon in as much mash as you like, add some sausages and cover with gravy! Don’t forget your spoon! Dig in!

Soup for dinner! sBlend-It!

Finally the cold weather has reached Charleston, SC. Well let’s say the temperatures dropped below 60 – which makes almost everybody in the Lowcountry frantically looking for their hats, gloves, scarves and UGG Boots…

This is the time where we drink hot apple cider, enjoy fresh baked cookies and the food habits switch from salad to soup.. Soup is such a blessing on a cold and wet day – it comforts us and at the same time keeps our hands warm…I love serving soup in mugs around a dinnertime fire and the children love it too..  Having your dinner in front of a crackling fire wrapped up in blankets on the couch or in the backyard is a treat you will want to experience more often! It is also a certain way how to get my kids to eat veggies.. Soups are versatile, healthy, tasty and they leave us so much room to experiment with spices, toppings and textures.

Let’s say this post convinces you to jump onto the soup train – a must have is an Immersion Blender. I bought mine off amazon – It is reasonably priced, easy to use, clean and store and it comes with a blending mug – https://www.amazon.com/Cuisinart-CSB-75BC-Blender-Brushed-Chrome/dp/B00ARQVM5O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1481048714&sr=8-1&

This specific blenders shaft, blade and blender guard are made out of stainless steel so be careful if you use it on nonstick cookware – in this case I would recommend blending the soup in a high bowl or in the blending mug that comes with the blender..

It is also true that lot’s of soups do not need to be blended, but for the purpose of mug serving it is less messy to do so..

Roasted Vegetable Soup

feeds 8 – Prep time: 30min – Cook time: 60min

Olive oil  (for frying and drizzling)

1 small red or yellow Onion

2 carrots

1 Parsnip

1 Cauliflower

1 Tbsp garlic powder (for cauliflower)

1 Tsp salt (for cauliflower)

5  stems of parsley (whole)

2 juniper berries

2 cups vegetable broth

4 cups of water

3 sprigs of thyme

1/4 cup heavy cream

1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar

Garnish: Prosciutto and thyme

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees

Cut the stem out of the cauliflower, divide the florets into same sizes and put them onto a baking sheet – drizzle with olive oil, salt and garlic powder – toss and bake for 30 – 40 min or until the cauliflower is evenly browned and has darker tips..

In a large pot heat up 2 Tablespoons of olive oil – cut the carrots, parsnip and onion in small cubes and fry them in the oil for about 10 minutes to get a nice and roasty flavor.

Add 2 cups of broth and 2 cups of water, the crushed juniper berries and the stems of parsley – cover and cook until soft (10 min) – add the cauliflower, add 2 more cups of water and the thyme sprigs – bring to a boil and cook covered for 10 more minutes so the flavors can mix well – when done cooking remove the parsley stems and thyme sprigs

Blend with an Immersion blender – add 1 Tbsp of Balsamic vinegar and the cream – taste!

Does it need salt? Pepper? More Thyme? Maybe Chili flakes?

Play around with it…. see what’s left in the bottom drawers of your fridge.. maybe you have some pumpkin from yesterdays dinner?  Leeks or eggplant that you can roast with the cauliflower? Add a potato to get a thicker consistency or more water or stock to get a thinner soup?  Add some Curry to get a middle eastern flavor? Fresh coriander, chili and lemon to make it taste more asiatic? You know what your family likes.. – you can always divide the soup into batches to experiment with it to make sure you will end up with something they will like and eat. Or plan a soup tasting dinner with a bunch of different toppings to choose from – your family will for sure get a kick out of being a judge in a tasting and you may be surprised with their answers!

Possible Toppings:

Prosciutto and Thyme, Sour Cream and Thyme, sundried Tomatoes, Garlic breadcrumbs, Bacon, Sour Cream and Paprika, Pumpkin seed oil, roasted Nuts (Pine, Pecan, walnut,..), Smoked Salmon, Chili flakes, ..