I have not been feeling very adventurous of late. In a food sense, I mean. There were many things I could have made from this book: piroshki, blintzes, and, I even wrote this one on my list, ‘eggplant rollatini’, a dish consisting of aubergine slices with a mushroom and tahini sauce among other things. But what has actually been made have been variations on common themes around here: baked beans with rum and molasses (not as nice as it sounded; too sickly), tofu with sesame noodles (OK). What’s more, Tom had to make them as I was cruelly struck down with a cold that left me desperately clutching a tissue in my champagne-less hand on New Year’s Eve and too self-pitying and weak to do anything much for a few days after. Also, my sense of smell, and hence taste, had deserted me so eating wasn’t much fun anyway.
When I was feeling a bit perkier, yesterday, I suggested making Mollie’s Spiced Lentil Dinner. Oh, predictable me. It has date and orange chutney, I informed Tom. ‘Ew’ he said. Or something more eloquent. It has apple in it too. ‘Middle class curry!’ he exclaimed in horror. He has been irrevocably scarred by early curry experiences involving fruit. I ignored him, but it was for his own good. He had seconds, and he particularly liked the chutney. Oh yes. In no way is this an authentic Indian dish, no dispute about that, but in its own strange way it is damn tasty.
Spiced lentil dinner Serves 4-6
There’s also a raita included in Mollie’s dinner (with bell pepper in it, for some reason). I had some red cabbage to use up, so I shredded that with some grated carrot, toasted almonds and a dressing made with sour cream and olive oil. It used up a few odds and ends, but a proper raita with thick yoghurt, chopped cucumber and mint might be nice here.
For the date and orange chutney:
1 orange, peeled and chopped quite small
1 x 250g pack dates, pitted and chopped
1 heaped tsp finely chopped ginger
100ml cider vinegar
(optional: raisins and cayenne pepper – I didn’t bother)
Combine all the ingredients in a small saucepan. Partially cover and cook over a medium-low heat for 20-30 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Cool and refrigerate (keeps for several weeks).
For the chappatis:
140g plain flour
140g wholewheat flour (I used chappati flour, because I had some)
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp poppyseeds (I substituted black sesame seeds)
150ml water (perhaps a bit less, as this is a conversion from cup measurements)
melted butter, to serve (optional)
Set aside a quarter of the white flour. Combine the remaining flour with the salt and seeds in a bowl and stir to mix. Add the water and stir until it’s absorbed and a dough is formed. Turn it out onto a surface dusted with the set aside flour and knead for 5 minutes, using more of the reserved flour as necessary.
Divide the dough into 8 round balls (Mollie suggests 10 for smaller, but I think they’re better quite big). Roll each ball out on the floured surface, making them very thin. You can refrigerate them now until time to eat, if you like – I suggest putting greaseproof paper between each one so they don’t stick, although generally my dough was quite well behaved.
To cook the chappatis, heat a large frying pan and lay in each chappati in turn, cooking for about a minute on each side. When done, brown spots should appear. You can also use a wad of kitchen paper to press down on the dough and make it puff up. Brush the cooked chapattis with melted butter, if you like. You can keep the chappatis warm wrapped in a tea towel or in a low oven until ready to serve.
For the spiced lentils:
300g lentils (I used toor dal, just because)
2 tbsp butter
2 large clove of garlic, chopped
2 onions, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 tsp salt
200g desiccated coconut
1/2 tsp powdered ginger
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground coriander
juice from 1 large lemon
2 apples, chopped
cayenne pepper, to taste
Cook the lentils in 500ml water in a covered pan until tender. You may need to add more water if they start to boil dry before they’re done. Cooking time depends on what sort of lentil or pulse you use, but generally about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, put everything else except for the apples in a large frying pan and stir until tender, adding water if necessary to stop it sticking.
Add the apples to frying pan and cook for 10 more minutes, covered, and then tip the whole lot into the lentil pan (or vice versa). Mix and keep warm in the oven if necessary.
Adapted from Mollie Katzen’s ‘The Enchanted Broccoli Forest: And Other Timeless Delicacies’.