Nepalese Dal Bhat: A Cracking Good Food Session

Nepalese Dal Bhat

The shocking news of the devastation caused by the earthquake on 25th April 2015 in Nepal that has seen the lives of 2000 people lost is beyond my comprehension. Just reading the stories and seeing the images on line is shocking enough, and my heart goes out to those affected. If you are able to contribute any financial support, please donate to your local Red Cross society who have set up an emergency appeal to support survivors and their families.

Nepal Earthquake Appeal

Nepal Earthquake Appeal

It is at times like these that I am reminded of my good fortune in life. To be able to live in a stable country better equiped to deal with devastating natural disasters. Although I am in Myanmar, far away from the country of Nepal, I have received numerous messages from my friends and family concerned of my welfare and worrying how I am getting on in this new country.

Dal Bhat

This post should have been written a couple of months ago, but as life got busy it got pushed further down the list of priorities. However it seems like its the right time to share these recipes now. Even though Nepal is in the midst of mass devastation there will be people who will be trying to get some normality in their lives, preparing Dal Bhat as their staple meal twice a day.

Cracking Good Food Nepalese Dal Bhat Cooking Class

Dal is an aromatic lentil soup that adds flavour to plain rice (bhat) and provides a great base for your curries. The recipes are courtesy of Momo Cooking who run fun and friendly workshop style cooking classes teaching everything you need to know about home cooked Nepalese food. As well as running their own cooking classes and catering business, they also run classes for Cracking Good Food to spread the word of great Nepalese cuisine!

Momo Cooking

Momo Cooking

Dal Bhat is the reknowned Nepali dish and a staple in the rice-cultivating regions. It generally consists of dal (lentils), baht (rice), a vegetable curry / saag, and a chutney. It is usually eaten by mixing the dal with the rice to form a soupy mixture, making a ball of the mixture with your hands, and adding curry and chutney. Hense why this post consists of three recipes! (All recipes are taken directly from Momo Cooking)

Cracking Food Good Dal Bhat cooking class

Dal

Ingredients (10 servings)

  • 200g Red lentils
  • 200g Black lentils (urid dal)
  • 2 1/2 litres water
  • 2 tsp oil
  • Fresh coriander to garnish

Spices:

  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 3 tsp coriander powder
  • 3 tsp garam masala
  • 3 tsp curry powder

Method

  • Rinse and drain your lentils until the water is clear
  • Add all of the water, spices and oil
  • Cover the pan and bring contents to boil. Once boiling, leave covered and simmer for around 90 minutes until the dal has reduced down and thickened into a creamy soup.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander and serve.

* Tip: To save time when cooking dal, make up a large batch and then divide and freeze individual portions. Take out and re-heat until bubbling as and when you need it. Make sure to taste your reheated dal before serving as it may need reseasoning.

Dal Bhat

Garlic Saag

Ingredients (6 servings)

  • 250g fresh spinach leaves
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • Generous pinch salt
  • 1/2 tbsp oil

Method

  • Heat oil in a pan and fry garlic until just starting to brown.
  • Add spinach, sprinkle with salt and stir fry until the spinach has wilted down.
  • Take off the heat and serve.

*Tip: Try replacing the spinach for seasonal greens such as kale or spring greens, and add a bit of heat by throwing in a bit of chopped fresh chilli.

Tomato Achaar

Tomato Achaar

Tomato Achaar

Served as a classic accompaniment to dal bhat, or with crispy papadums as a tasty snack in its own right Ingredients (6 servings)

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup soya beans
  • 4 medium tomatoes
  • 1 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 fresh chilli, thinly sliced
  • 200 ml water
  • 1 handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Spices:

  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1tsp meat masala
  • 1tsp coriander powder
  • 1tsp garam masala
  • 1tsp mild curry powder

*Tip: If it’s hard for you to get hold of soya beans, you can replace them with fresh garden peas instead. Skip step 1 and 2 in the method, and add the peas in step 8, in place of the cooked soya beans. Remove from the heat once the peas are cooked.

Method

  • Heat the soya beans in a dry pan for about 5 minutes.
  • Move the beans around the pan regularly to ensure that they cook evenly on every side. You will know the beans are cooked when you hear small popping sounds, see small brown dots appear on the beans and you get a nutty smell coming from the pan.
  • Take beans off the heat and set aside until later.
  • Heat 1 tbsp oil in a high sided pan, add the onions and fry until starting to brown.
  • Add turmeric and stir.
  • Add tomatoes, garlic and chilli and stir in until everything is coated with oil and turmeric.
  • Sprinkle the salt and the rest of the spices evenly across the tomatoes, add the water and stir everything through so that the spices are mixed into the curry.
  • Cover pan, bring up to a boil.
  • As tomatoes soften, use the back of a spoon to mash them together. Slowly add more water if the tomatoes seem to be drying out and catching on the pan.
  • Once all of the tomatoes have softened, add the cooked soya beans and stir through.
  • Leave on the heat for about another minute, stirring and adding splashes of water if needed.
  • Remove from the heat, garnish with fresh coriander and serve.

I’ve not included a curry recipe in this post as it’s getting far too long! Add your favouite vegetable and/or meat dishes to this for a completely satisfying meal… Enjoy! 😀

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Quesadilla: With refried beans, sweet potato and tomato salsa dip

Quesadilla: A Cracking Good Food Session

Quesadilla and Salad

Quesadilla and Salad

According to Wikipedia, a quesadilla is “a flour tortilla or a corn tortilla filled with a savory mixture containing cheese, other ingredients, and/or vegetables, cooked often on a griddle, then folded in half to form a half-moon shape”. Or as the Cracking Good Food Cooking Lead called it “fancy cheese toasties”.

Stuffed flat breads are available the world over, in various forms and flavours, so are a fairly good way to introduce people to new flavours and foods without it seeming too different from what they may be used to. In the UK, a ‘cheese toastie‘ is, in its’ purist form, two slices of bread with some cheese in between them and grilled until the bread has crisped up and the cheese all gooey inside. There are of course lots of variations to these fillings, my personal favourite being cheddar cheese, mushrooms and chilli flakes! Even thinking about it makes my mouth water…

Cracking Good Food is a community cooking network promoting cooking from scratch, and using sustainable and seasonal ingredients. So for this session we were showing older people how to use store cupboard ingredients and left overs to create tasty quesadilla in less than 30 minutes. I guess the significance of the session being for older people was that it was the main age group the client worked for. When chatting with some of the participants, some were nervous of cooking recipes that hadn’t been taught by their mother/grandmother. Whereas others were keen to try new recipes from different world cuisines. The ease of this dish means that it is open to anyone who wants to create their own tasty meal, especially those on a tight budget or wanting to reduce their food waste by using up bits of left overs in the fridge.

Quesadilla, Hot Salsa and Salad

Quesadilla, Hot Salsa and Salad

Using ready made large wheat flour tortillas, and created an easy version of ‘refried beans’, sweet potato filling and a hot tomato salsa. I’m going to share these recipes from memory as I forgot to pick up a recipe sheet!

The fillings and salsa dip use the same base flavour ingredients which helps bring synergy to the dish but also means there are fewer ingredients to buy for people living on a tight budget, as well as reducing the numbers of spices being left to go stale in the cupboard!

Refried Beans

Refried Beans

Refried Beans

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of black eyed beans (rinsed)
  • 1 can of pinto beans (rinsed)
  • 1 medium red onion (finely diced)
  • Small bunch of fresh coriander (finely chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  • Heat the oil in a large, deep sided, frying pan and fry the onions and garlic until lightly browned.
  • Add the cumin and all the beans, simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add water if it is looking too dry.
  • Once ready, add salt and pepper and coriander and give a final stir through.
Hot Tomato Salsa

Hot Tomato Salsa

Hot Tomato Salsa

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes (use chopped fresh tomatoes if preferred)
  • 1 medium red onion (diced)
  • 1 large sweet red pepper (diced)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 small handful of chopped fresh coriander
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  • In a medium saucepan heat the oil and slowly fry the onions and garlic until lightly browned
  • Add the sweet red peppers, tomatoes and spices. Simmer over a low heat until you get a smooth paste like texture, about 10 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with coriander before giving it a final stir through

Spiced Sweet Potato filling

Ingredients:

  • 3 large sweet potatoes (cubed)
  • 1 medium red onion (diced)
  • 2 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground smoked chipotle chili (or any chili powder)
  • salt and pepper, to taste

Method:

  • In a large saucepan, boil the sweet potato until softened then drain the potatoes, saving some of the water for later. Roughly mash the sweet potato leaving some big chunks for added texture
  • In a medium saucepan heat the oil and slowly fry the onions and garlic until lightly browned, then add the spices
  • Add the mashed sweet potato to the spices onion and garlic and stir until thoroughly combined. Add some of the saved potato water to the mix so it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Warm through but do not overcook.
Quesadilla

Quesadilla

I’m not going to go through the steps of how to put together a quesadilla as there have been some great people before me who have already published step by step guides, so please refer to them.

Quesadilla and Salad

Quesadilla and Salad

Going back to the ‘cheese toastie’ comparison, the only other ingredients you need are the bread and the cheese. So get your tortillas and some of your favourite cheese and start building your tasty quesadillas… and you don’t need to be over 55 to enjoy them! 😉

Cracking Good Food

Cracking Good Food: Sustainable Food and Community Cooking

Cracking Good Food

Cracking Good Food (www.crackinggoodfood.org) 

Since leaving a steady job in September 2014, I have been exploring different options for work that also bring in my love of food. As someone who has worked in the ‘not for profit sector’ for most of my adult life, I find it difficult to leave it behind. Leaving my job was a big step, but I find myself exploring new ways of community work that also draws my interest in food and cooking!

Foraging

Foraging (May 2011)

I first came across Cracking Good Food in May 2011 when I was researching ‘team building’ activities for my work colleagues. I was looking for a cooking class but found them to be way over our limited budget. So when I came across the Cracking Good Food ‘wild food foraging’ class, I was immediately drawn to it! The event involved identifying edible plant life in a local park. Some easily identifiable and some not so obvious! We then cooked up our foraged goodies and shared it as a team. That day really got me interested in wild food foraging, and I have since cooked up many foraged mushrooms and made bottles of elderflower cordial in the summer months.

Foraged St Georges Mushrooms

Foraged St Georges Mushrooms

Foraging involves ‘the acquisition of food by hunting, fishing, or the gathering of plant matter’ and has become of increasing interest to people in the UK. Recently I have noticed ‘foraging’ being featured in celebrity cooking programs, increasing the public interest and easing worries about the risks of poisoning! Although caution is always advised, especially when mushroom foraging!

Cracking Good Food is a cookery school and community cooking network, and a social enterprise that promotes cooking from scratch using sustainable and seasonal ingredients. It’s mission is to promote cooking skills in local communities by delivering cooking courses and training, as part of a wider campaign for affordable, sustainable & healthier food for all.

Fast forward 3 years and I find myself working for Cracking Good Food, helping to deliver cooking sessions in the community. I saw an advert for Sessional Facilitators on their Facebook page and knew straight away that it was something I wanted to be involved in. Over the past few years their portfolio of work has increased massively in line with public awareness of the huge amount of food waste in the household, in agriculture and commercially.

In previous posts I have referred to the ‘Love Food, Hate Waste‘ website which cites that “since 2007 avoidable food and drink waste (the good stuff that could once have been eaten) has reduced by a massive 21% saving consumers £3.3 billion a year and councils around £85 million in 2012 alone.” Not only is sustainable food sourcing important for the environment, but it is also beneficial in communities where increasing numbers of people are turning to Food Banks for extra groceries when facing financial difficulties.

© www.crackinggoodfood.org

CGF Community Session ©www.crackinggoodfood.org

I have been involved in Cracking Good Food’s community outreach events that have taught the cooking of nutritious and affordable recipes in communities with high levels of deprivation. The above photo was taken at a similar event when students learned to cook ‘sweet potato and chickpea burgers’ with a ‘carrot and coriander salad’. The amazing thing about these sessions was that most of the ingredients were made with fresh produce that was destined for landfill!

CGF School Cooking Class

CGF School Cooking Class

As someone who loves food, I am incredibly grateful to my family for teaching me the pleasures that good food can bring to life and how to cook nutritious meals. Not everyone is so lucky, there are many children who go to school hungry and mainly live off highly processed foods high in salt, sugar and fat. I am increasingly interested in developing communities using the food as a tool. Whether teaching the importance of eating well or exploring new flavours and introducing them to a wider range of foods.

In an era when food poverty in the the developed nations is on the increase, it is becoming more important to consider our relationship with food. From wasting less food by shopping in smaller quantities to using up left overs for another meal, everyone can make a small change to their cooking and eating habits.