Red Lentil, Sweet Potato and Spinach Dhal

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As a child my tastes were fairly unadventurous. Our diet was varied but very much based on standard British classics; shepherd’s pie, roast dinner, mince. Along with things like soup and baked beans. Perhaps I’m doing my hardworking mum a disservice but with two fussy children I don’t blame her for giving us things we’d eat.

As a teenager I branched out a little more and then I was lucky enough to go away to university. Now it seems to me that for most people, leaving for university is an opportunity to try new things in all walks of life, break free of previous expectations and routines. And mostly people tend to become more adventurous in what they’ll eat when they leave home. Sadly this wasn’t the case for me and my already somewhat limited repertoire shrank considerably. There were a number of reasons for this, but I don’t think I’ll go into them right now.

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Anyway, this is building up to me confessing that this is the first time I’ve ever made anything with Indian spices in it for myself (and pretty much the only time I’ve eaten them – aside from a very small amount of curry about eight years ago!).

This recipe seemed like a good place to start – I’ve been having a love affair with spinach recently, having discovered that frozen spinach is fairly cheap, always to hand and defrosts quickly into whatever I add it to. It also doesn’t feel like I’m eating extra vegetables but I am. Bonus! And I know that I enjoy sweet potatoes – mostly roasted, but probably any way they come really.

I found the recipe whilst browsing through the archives of Herbivores’ Heaven, which is a lovely blog; well written and interesting to read. The recipe was originally a BBC Good Food one, but is no longer available on their website. And I adapted it from what was given anyway to take account of the fact that I wasn’t sure whether I would like the flavour of the spices. Be warned, if you know you like spice then you probably won’t even taste the amounts given here! Even I didn’t think it was warm in terms of chilli heat so next time I’ll increase all of the spices.

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Red Lentil, Sweet Potato and Spinach Dhal
Place 50g red lentils, 1 finely chopped onion, 1/4tsp turmeric, 1/4tsp garam masala, pinch chilli flakes, 1/2tsp stock powder, 2 chopped tomatoes and 250ml boiling water in a pan. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Add a chopped sweet potato (mine weighed 140g after prep, 225g before prep) and simmer for a further 10 or so minutes (I’m rubbish at taking note of timings!) then add the frozen spinach (70g), mushing it in well until it’s defrosted and distributed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
I served mine with basmati rice.

This was delicious – I loved the gentle spicy flavours with the colourful vegetables. There is some left over and I am very much looking forward to eating it at some point in the future and I will make it again too, always the sign of a successful recipe.

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I’m going to link into a few blog challenges with this one. Firstly Meat Free Mondays hosted by Jac at Tinned Tomatoes. This recipe is vegan and rather unusually for me, I didn’t miss the cheese that I usually add to everything I eat! I’m looking forward to trying more recipes like this. I’m adding it to Credit Crunch Munch with Helen and Camilla hosted this month by Baking Queen 74. Red lentils and frozen spinach are definitely economical. As my sweet potato was apparently best before *ahem* the 4th April, I think I can count this as an entry to No Waste Food Challenge! Hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary. And finally it will be an entry into the Spice Trail where the theme this month is Spice Mixes. I’ve not used garam masala before and really wasn’t sure of it when I opened the pot but added to all of the other ingredients it was really lovely. I’ll be using it again.

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Red Lentil, Sweet Potato and Spinach Dhal

Favourite Creamy Veggie Pasta

Creamy Veggie Pasta

I spent many years eating a lot of pasta (and I still do eat a lot of pasta) exclusively with tomato based sauces. With melted cheese on the top (I think it was the melted cheese I wanted really, not the tomato based pasta!). And then a few months ago I realised that actually, I enjoyed creamy based pasta sauces too and so my allegiance has switched and this is my favourite pasta of the moment.

To my mind pasta has a lot going for it – reasonably cheap, keeps forever in the cupboard (sprouting, green potatoes I’m looking at you…), is quick and easy to make when I can’t be bothered to think after a day at work and is very versatile in terms of what you can put with it. Admittedly I don’t take advantage of that last aspect so much, sticking to what I’ve found I enjoy.

And this is what I’m enjoying the most at the moment. Soften courgette cut into half-moon shapes until lightly coloured in a little oil. Start the pasta cooking; your sauce won’t take long. When the courgette is soft and coloured, add frozen spinach and roasted peppers (I roast these in batches and freeze them for ease). Add a little water and bash the spinach until it defrosts. Add Philadelphia cheese, salt and pepper. Squash the cream cheese into the rest of the sauce ingredients until it melts and forms a creamy sauce. In the meantime add broccoli to the pasta pan – time depends on how large you cut the florets but I usually reckon about five minutes.

Drain pasta, mix into sauce. Eat. Creamy and delicious. I tend to use Light Philadelphia but I’m sure full fat would be fine. Not sure about the ‘Lightest’ Philadelphia; I have a feeling it’s largely water and stabilisers but I could try it one day to prove myself right or wrong.

I’m going to sneak this into a few blog challenges. Vegetable Palette which this month is your favourite vegetable hosted at A2K. Call me odd but I have a particular love for both broccoli and courgette so this qualifies for me. Pasta Please – asking for any pasta dish hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and this month Jen’s Food. Extra Veg because really, this is just a delicious way to eat four different vegetables without even really thinking about it! Hosted this month by Veggie Desserts. And finally into the No Waste Food Challenge hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen. I reckon that using frozen spinach and frozen peppers qualifies – frozen vegetables are often fresher as they’re frozen at their peak and you can use exactly the amount you need – no waste 🙂

Favourite Creamy Veggie Pasta