Black Lentils and Orange Squash

Serves 2 people with leftover lentils. Because leftover lentils are ESSENTIAL for LIFE

Ingredients

  • Mug of black lentils (whole urad dal)
  • 1 onion
  • Splash of sunflower oil
  • Tbsp bouillon powder or veg stock cube
  • Knob of butter
  • 1 butternut squash
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 4 tbsp Creme fraiche
  • A generous handful of fresh sage and rosemary
  • Salt

Method

  • Soak the lentils (urad dal) for 8 hours or overnight
    then rinse thoroughly
  • Finely chop the onion then fry in the sunflower oil for 5-10 minutes, until soft and browning
  • Add the lentils and the bouillon, or stock, disolved two mugs of  boiling water. Cook with the lid on until the lentils are soft, about an hour. If there is any water left, boil rapidly with lid off until it’s gone (or drain if you prefer). You may also need to add water during cooking, dal is not an exact science.
  • Peel and chop the squash into large slices or chunks (remove seeds) and toss in the olive oil, then bake at 220 degrees for 20 minutes (turn halfway through)
  • Using a mezzaluna (or sharp knife and shopping board) very finely chop the herbs together with a half teaspoon of salt so that you end up with some delicious green, herblicious salty dust. Add 2/rds of this to the cooked dal together with a knob (or 2) of butter and warm through.
  • Add the remaining salty herbs to the creme fraiche and stir well.
  • To serve, ladle the lentils onto plates, top with the squash and a dollop of creme fraiche.

Black lentils and squash

A note about the lentils: Urad dal aka black lentils aka black gram aka mungo beans can be found in Indian shops. If you can’t find them use puy lentils instead (much less soaking and cooking required though). Don’t use skinned urad dal or split urad dal – they taste totally different as the flavour comes from the skins.

You may have had them in Indian restaurants where they are cooked with masses of cream and butter. The skinned urad dal are ground to make dosas. What a versatile bean.

The Fake Sausage Wrangle

I generally don’t eat pretend meat (apart from as a student when I was utterly addicted to Meatless Streaky Strips, a microwavable bacon that resulted in something like a hot frazzle sandwich, I digress…) but I do lean rather heavily on the veggie sausage on work nights. They (and a glass of red) are my life support after a tough-ish day when I’m too weary to cook from scratch.

While I bristle and take plenty of umbrage when sneery meat eaters complain about the BBQd cardboard in their hot dog bun, they unfortunately do have a point. Veggie sausages are not very good. However, they are for the time being something of a necessity, convenience-wise. I’ve tried making my own with lentils, using a breadcrumb base, and using a gnocchi base. The bread crumb ones were the most successful but don’t do the job as convenience food. Then I found this recipe from Vegan Dad that he had adapted from veg blogging guru Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

It uses gluten flour (expect several trips to health food shops and delis in which you ask for gluten flour and they give you gluten free flour, before finally tracking it down on the internet).

This recipe is great. You steam the ‘sausages’ before grilling or frying or BBQing them, so can steam a whole batch and freeze for another time. I don’t use the nutritional yeast because I don’t trust those strange ingredients you see all the time in vegan blogs that purport to give a ‘cheesey’ flavour. I’ve made them loads, kind of planning to come up with my own definitive favourite flavours, but in the end I evolved a more pragmatic approach.

Now I start with a bowl with the gluten flour and add the beans (or chick peas) which are a necessity for the right texture. The beans must be lightly mashed, not pureed or the bangers come out too rubbery. Then add whatever you fancy; VERY finely diced veg, loads of herbs and spices, grated cheese, nuts, touch of Marmite…

I also made these with my niece and nephew, giving them a bowl of gluten flour each and lots of little piles of other ingredients so they could add what they fancied. (And followed by EXTREME segregation in the steamer so we couldn’t mix their sausages up). You shape the mix into rough sausage shapes and wrap in foil. The sausages magically expand in the steamer to make a perfect, dense sausage shape.

Getting ready for West Norwood Feast

I’ll be at West Norwood Feast, Sunday 1st July…

I’m moving sometime soon (subject to not getting gazumped, damp in the floors not proving un-mortgageable, not dying before completing, all that jazz).

Given that I currently have the hugest garden in London, and I’m moving to a normal sized garden i.e. tiny (some days it does feel like I’m moving garden, the flat itself immaterial) that means a whole lot of plants to re-home.

I was going to leave them here, a floral legacy for the new tenants. But when I moved in this 80 foot garden was also 80 foot high in brambles, and I spent the first year clearing it, by hand, and with many many scratches, bruises, aching muscles to prove it. And I just don’t want my beloved plants to succumb to the jungle.

So I’ve spent the last couple days potting them up. Some I’ll sell at West Norwood Feast’s splendid gardeners’ market, some I’ll give to friends and some I’ll plant in the new garden. The Feast part I’m pretty excited about. I set up the Retro part of the market last year, which I’ve since handed over to Caroline, another volunteer. I also had a food stall on the first ever Feast, selling (and selling out) of Lemon & Black Pepper tart,  Mocha Zuccotta, Marie’s banana cake and other sweet things. So it feels a fitting move from SE27 to sell my plants at the Feast, one of the best things about SE27. Plus I’ve proved that all the plants can cope with West Norwood’s awful mix of heavy clay and rubble soil.