About miriam

My kitchen is generally well-stocked, but when the time for my weekly or bi-monthly ‘big’ shopping spree is due, I find myself with a weird mixture of ingredients. I pride myself in having a particular talent of making a meal out of almost anything. Over the years I’ve learned to buy some extra staples for these desperate times. Even though I’ve often read lists of pantry staples to always have on hand, I think that many people will prefer to develop their own. Not everyone needs to have an extra jar of peanut butter, for example.

This recipe came about at such a time. Luckily, aside from chickpeas and lentils (which I always tend to have on hand) I also had a packet of pearl couscous. By the time the pearl barley was ready to serve, I had the whole meal ready. That’s how quick it was. However, I did trick my man into thinking I had been cooking for a whole hour…

For around 4 portions, you will need:

  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 medium white onion, roughly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 150-200g yellow lentils
  • 500ml water or stock (if using 2 tablespoons of curry, water is enough)
  • 1-2 tablespoons yellow or red curry, according to taste
  • coconut oil or oil of choice, to cook
  • optional spinach, rinsed and roughly chopped

Method:

Boil some slightly salted water to cook the barley / rice / couscous according to the instructions. You may also choose to serve this dish with a side salad or naan bread.
Cook the onions, garlic and curry paste until the onion is translucent, taking care not to burn the garlic.

Add the lentils and water/stock. Cook for around 12-15 minutes, or until the lentils are soft. Stir occasionally and if the mixture starts to dry up, add some more water, a little at a time. Add the chickpeas and coconut milk in the last few minutes, lowering the heat and cooking until the whole mixture is hot. If you’re using spinach, add it now also. Try not to let the coconut milk boil.

Serve hot. The dahl reheats well and can keep for a few days in the fridge.


This article was originally printed on The Sunday Times of Malta here.

Between meals in New Orleans

I like to think of New Orleans fondly as New York’s younger, raunchier sister, who’s got more than a touch of a feisty European in her. I don’t know many places which are quite as musical. Day and night, in most random bars and even some cafes, musicians and singers are passionately belting out tunes.

Eating and drinking

New Orleans is a haven for seafood lovers, think of Po boys, so many different kinds of oysters, jambalaya and gumbo. It might not be worth going for the higher-end places, simply because the street food- style places offer delicious dishes. The fancier options might tend to lose their authenticity and layers of flavour. You must try the oysters raw or grilled, they’re usually comparatively affordable, rather large, and served on the half shell with an array of condiments (read: hot sauces).

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There are choices and pathways to take. You discover that following a storm a couple of years ago, the easiest paths may be closed, but you might only find out when you’ve walked through them for a couple of minutes. You’re excited for the adventure, wary, not sure how much you can handle or if you were completely awake when you made the decision to come here. But here you are.

The start is hard. Harder than you feel it should be. You may wonder if this was a bad idea, if you bit more than you could chew, if you had better give up now before embarrassing yourself.

Some parts are dangerous – this is not just a perception – you are risking a lot in this challenge. Have you strayed off your path? Check for signs and you will find them. When walking on such paths, you must keep your eyes on your feet, checking only the immediate next step. Looking forward or at the view is distracting and dangerous, it may cause a loss of footing. Looking back may be equally disorienting.

Stairs and steps may be uneven, narrow, slippery. Sometimes you may need to lean on someone or grab a helping hand. Accept help.

Accept the need for occasional rest. Rest is not ‘giving up’. To enjoy the view, ensure safety and stop completely. Rest is brief, it is only long enough to catch your breath. Don’t worry if you need to stop for a minute until someone gets by you.

Still the mind, listen to your own rhythm.

You won’t believe how far you’ve come, even if the road felt long and challenging. You won’t believe the view. Even if your body aches, you will look at the journey and feel proud.