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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Spanish potato and chorizo tortilla

Living in a household where both humans can get pretty busy for weeks at a time (and the cats are useless at cooking), getting a slow cooker has been a life-saver. Rather than surviving on quick meals and take-outs during these times (think: production week), just a little bit of effort produced delicious and comforting meals, sometimes prepped at 11pm and cooking overnight. This was especially the case when making breakfast food that you can eat at any time, such as this Spanish tortilla and variations of it. You’ll always need between 6-8 eggs to start with, then add 2-3 other ingredients making sure to avoid food that produces too much moisture (e.g. mushrooms) if you’re planning to make the omelette / frittata last a few days. Once you’ve made this, you’ll have a handy snack to have as breakfast, or to stick into a wrap or pita bread, or for example chopped up and added to some greens, and consumed cold or heated up.

For this recipe I used:

  • 8 eggs
  • 2 small wild boar sausages, chopped into small cubes
  • 8 baby potatoes, chopped into small cubes
  • 80g chopped jalapeno cheddar
  • ground pepper to taste

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(I avoid adding salt to uncooked eggs as it tends to bring the water out of them, but that is a personal choice, you can add salt after it is cooked)

Other times I’ve replaced the potatoes/sausage combo (since chopping potatoes can be the most time-consuming part of the process) with sliced courgettes/sweetcorn/bacon or even finely chopped broccoli.

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To make the cleaning time quicker, you may want to line your slow cooker with a baking sheet as so, cutting off the excess before covering with the lid:

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Putting the whole thing together is easy: just whisk the eggs before adding your other ingredients. Then place in your slow cooker and even the top out with a spoon. Set your cooker on low heat for 8 hours and wake up to a delicious breakfast.

Please leave comments with other ideas for making frittata !