There has been a lot of fish products spoken about and when fish cakes kept getting mentioned I found myself desperately craving the lemony mashed potato fried cake part of it all and wound up in the kitchen whipping these up for dinner:
You know how there is that one thing you just fail at in the kitchen? Like poaching an egg is harder to master than peace in the Middle East, and the thought of creating a croissant makes you break out in a cold sweat?
For years I was thwarted by rice. One of the cheapest, most versatile basics you could ever have in your repertoire and I avoided it like a toddler avoiding bedtime because I just could.not.get.it.right. It either sat in a huddled gluggy mass in my saucepan like even it was disappointed in me, or I burned every last grain at the bottom while unhelpfully leaving the top layer uncooked.
Stuffed shells is one of those dishes I always read about, that sounded exactly like something I would want to eat, but never made – simply because I had no idea where on earth you would find those jumbo pasta shells. Never seen them in any of my regular haunts, never saw them in any of the delis I went to (probably wasn’t looking hard enough), never saw anyone I knew in my actual real life cook with them.
I’m in Queensland at the moment, eating all the fresh fruit and drinking all the cold beer, because it’s WARM, y’all. Spring is sprung and all that. A very nice respite from winter’s end in Melbourne, which still won’t properly end until about December. The day before I left, it was heading into the 20s so I forced everyone outside in shorts and a t-shirt to finally get some sun on our skin. Glorious, I tell you!
When I made this burrito-style bowl for lunch the other day, and popped it on my cheery yellow outdoor mat, I could see my future: long, hot days; taking all meals outdoors, and eating colourful crunchy veg like my life depended on it. Cold beer too, probably. If you’re in good weather already, or you can feel it’s on its way, this one is for you.
I know the time for winter food is coming to an end (although we’re right at that moment in Melbourne where you think it will never be warm again HOLY SHIT FFS), but the nights are still plenty chilly enough for comfort carbs.
Like dhal? Yeah, me too. It was one of the first lentil dished I ever ate that didn’t immediately make me cry. Sure, I ate it on bread like a sandwich, but whatever. It tasted good!
My mum was vegetarian for a long time, and as she made her way into vegetarian cooking when I was in my late teens and early 20s, this dhal she made quickly became something I asked for every time I visited. It started my love of pulses, Hare Krishna food, Ayurvedic food, and anything that required spices and simple ingredients. Living in Murwillumbah will also do that to you. Gosh, that really was the birthplace of my tie-dye years.
As I’ve made my way through vegetarian cooking for the last 10 years, I’m the first person to forget that these amazing food combinations exist. But when I look at my pantry full of very type of bean, split pea, and lentil there is, it’s ayurvedic and Hare Krishna recipes I turn to. They are warming, nourishing, and are far more creative than I can come up with on my own!
A little while ago I was looking for some good slow-cooker meals similar to this smoky split pea soup I made a while ago, and I remembered kitchari, the “chicken soup” of the ayurvedic world. It’s what you eat for everything – you’re sick, you’ve been travelling, you’ve been gorging yourself on everything else, or you just need comfort food, that sort of thing. I wanted to make a huge batch of something healthy, spicy and delicious that I could freeze in portions for lunches and this kitchari hit the spot. It’s kind of like dhal, but made with mung beans instead of lentils. As a fun extra, you can sprout the mung beans you don’t use and make the mung bean sprouts we all know and love! Then you know you’ve really hit hippie territory. Remember that time I sprouted lentils? They were fucking delicious.
I’ve adapted from this recipe, and I ate it with a hell of a lot of sriracha. Just perfect for gloomy winter days like this! Eight degrees they say. The middle of the day they say. I’m wondering if I’ll ever thaw out.
Now I did make this in the crock pot, but you can definitely make it in a large pot on the stove as per usual. I’ve done it both ways and it’s just as good either way!
2 cloves garlic (or pinch of asafoetida if you're doing it legit!)
6 cups vegetable stock (you can make with water but I like a bit more oomph to the taste)
1 cup diced seasonal vegetables (I used carrot, celery and potato)
fresh lime or lemon juice
You can do this two ways: the first takes advantage of the slow-cooking bit of the crock pot and add everything together and simmer on low for 8 hours, stirring occasionally. This works well.
The other way, if you'd like a bit more colour and flavour but is extra work, is to saute the seasonal vegetables and garlic over a medium heat in some ghee, coconut oil, or olive oil until soft and browned. Add a little more ghee or oil and stir fry the spices until they release their scent, about a minute. Add to the crock pot with the rest of the ingredients, and simmer on low for 8 hours, stirring occasionally.
This also works well in a dutch oven in the oven, or on the stove top in the biggest pot you have!
I like to serve this soupier, rather than a thick dhal, so I add extra water at the end, and also to each serve when reheating. Excellent with extra coriander on top. Yum!
It has been comfort food here out the wazoo as I revel in my own kitchen again, and try to keep the winter cold from creeping into our bones. This week we’ve had foccacia, victoria sponge, eccles cakes, vegan mock tuna, and the day I got home from overseas I made cheddar biscuits, homemade ranch, a pot of spicy black beans, brown rice, and quinoa salad. I’m guessing food is my love language.
I’ve also been in the pie game lately, and while I work on perfecting my pastry (almost there!), I’ve been known to cheat and chuck everything in a tin with some frozen puff pastry on top. I ain’t complaining, see?