Vegan dal | Hidden veg red lentil dal

The sunroom is my favourite room in the house, especially in winter. Golden rays of sun filter through the windows and make me feel like I myself am a glowing beam of sun. I notice a difference in how I feel when I sit in this room, I feel really good. And then I look at my plant children around me and I feel really happy. If they’re thriving from living in the sunroom then I must be thriving, too. I’m pretty glad about that, because I am about to turn another year older. 

I’ve been on the hunt for the best dal recipe for years. I wanted one that had more depth to its flavour. The simple ones I had tried were too one dimensional in taste, while the complicated recipes were not worth my time. I was reading a recipe by J. Kenji López-Alt  recently where he recommended roasting eggplant, removing the skin and blitzing it up to add to ramen. I wondered if it would work for dal so I gave it a shot. I wanted this dal to be really flavoursome so I decided to pierce the skin of the eggplant before roasting and stuffed it with garlic cloves. 

Did it work? You bet it did. 

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Vegan dal | Hidden veg red lentil dal
Serves 4

1 1/2 cup red lentils, washed and soaked for 2 hours (if timing allows)
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 litre filtered water
1 bay leaf
1/2 red onion, sliced
2 tbsp cumin seeds
6 curry leaves
1 eggplant, pierced and stuffed with 4-6 peeled garlic cloves then roasted for 1 to 1 1/2 hours
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp garam masala

Tip lentils into a medium saucepan. Cover with the water and add turmeric and bay leaf. Stir and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10-15 minutes until the water has reduced and the lentils are soft.

After roasting the eggplant, remove its skin and mash the flesh in a bowl, ensuring the garlic is mashed and mixed well. Set aside.

Heat some oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the onion and allow it to caramelise, about 10 minutes. Add the cumin seeds and cook for a further 2-3 minutes until fragrant then add curry leaves and stir for 1 minute.

Tip the onion mix into the saucepan of red lentils and stir. Add mashed eggplant, salt and garam masala and cook for a further 10 minutes. Season further if required.

Serve with brown rice, fresh herbs and tamarind chutney.

The best vegan tacos

I’ve come to the conclusion that careers change you, in the same way that life events change you. Working in an industry based on communication has changed me – for better in many respects, but also for worse in some ways.

I’ve always been a homebody. And, I’ve always been an introvert with a touch of awkward. When you’re ‘green’ in my industry, you learn pretty quickly that being like this isn’t going to cut it if you want to do well and be respected for what you do. To that end, my life feels like a balancing act featuring the introverted and extroverted parts of myself. Most of the time there isn’t much balance.

These tacos were a godsend when I was feeling particularly unbalanced recently. I have been dreaming about getting a good ‘meatiness’ for my tacos before now. Mexican-spiced scrambled tofu wasn’t going to cut it and nor was nut meat, especially after recently discovering I have a mild walnut allergy (just another food allergy/intolerance for the already long list). The secret? A little bit of tofu, a little bit of tempeh, and some baked kidney beans.

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The best vegan tacos
Makes 10-12

1 can kidney beans, drained and baked at 200 degrees C for 15 minutes
150g organic non-GMO tofu
75g organic tempeh
1/2 brown onion, diced
1 tbsp garlic powder
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp tahini
1 tbsp gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Pinch of ground black pepper
Fresh tomato, red onion and lime salsa, to serve
Avocado or guac, to serve
Sriracha, to serve

Blitz tofu and tempeh in a food processor a couple of times. Set aside.

Heat coconut oil in a heavy-based pan. Add onion and saute until starting to caramelise. Add the garlic and cook on a medium heat for one minute before adding the spices. Once the spices are fragrant, add tahini, soy sauce and vinegar, followed by tofu and tempeh, baked kidney beans, and a pinch of pepper. Cook until liquid is soaked up and all ingredients are cooked through.

Spoon mix into warmed taco shells topped with fresh tomato, red onion and lime salsa, avocado slices and a touch of sriracha.