It’s a skill to take photos on the go and not add extra time to the prep or cooking time, often I’ve only one shot and that’s it – it’s even harder when I take the final, what I call representative, shot and it’s someone else’s serving. (I can spend all day taking pictures of my dinner until it’s cold, I don’t care. I’ve written about this before.) Such was the situation last Saturday when I was making dinner as I simultaneously coaxed the food to pose for photographs while at the same time trying to avoid getting my camera lens steamed up. Trying to do this all faster than usual so that we all could watch the third episode of Sherlock sooner, a BBC drama that has modernized Sherlock Holmes and it is stellar. The stories, the acting, the photography, are excellent and everyone is riveted for the entire ninety minutes of an episode. Now we all have to wait until autumn of next year – not April, as previously thought – to see what happens next and it’s sheer agony to have to wait.
One of my favourite scenes from Sherlock, in the first episode A Study in Pink. The version in the unaired pilot is even funnier, when John Watson discovers Sherlock hasn’t eaten in several days:
Sherlock: “The brain’s what counts, everything else is transport.”
John: “You might consider refueling… So, do you have a girlfriend who feeds you up sometimes?”
Sherlock: “Is that what girlfriends do? Feed you up?”
I have a special relationship, for lack of a better word, with this dish. Clipped out of an issue of Martha Stewart Living from 2004, my family and I made it several times and it quickly became a favourite. One time when I was making it on my own back then, I was low on one of the spices and I ended up using half a teaspoon of cayenne powder to compensate.
Let’s do something simple today – not like a lot of my recipes aren’t simple already, but something that’s not only simple but also relatively fast to throw together as well and great for the crowd. What’s fabulous about this dahl is that it is practically rendered a healthy fast food because of the red lentils – they don’t require that long to cook before they’re done, and cooked past that just tender stage, they turn to mush and absorb a lot of the liquid. Which makes cooked red lentils a great substitute for mashed potatoes, but without hardly so much the effort, and I would say just as filling.
Dahl is Indian, although this particular dahl is mild – making it suitable for those who aren’t familiar with Indian food or don’t like it to be that spicy. I can’t say when exactly (I’m still planning) but soon I’ll be doing a couple of some sort of themed recipes and this one would fit the bill perfectly for a Roald Dahl-themed party.
There are many posts not completed, perpetual drafts, or not written at all, about lunch and dinner. Whether quick fixes or something such as this stew, things I’ve never shared before because I usually don’t measure; instead doing by feel and intuition – colours, smells, and taste being my indicators and clues as I’m making it up as I go along.
When I’m baking, I generally measure as baking is more of a precise science than cooking – with cooking, you can be adding and tweaking flavours all the way through until you’re satisfied. There used to be a time when I stood more closely by the “rules”, following recipes exactly as instructed – measuring a teaspoon of this, a teaspoon of that, but nowadays I mostly eyeball it and making it up as I go along, without advance planning and or without a recipe: just a general idea or guideline. It reminds me a bit of Chez Panisse, in the early days when it was still young.
Now, hopefully after this kind of post, I will try to share more recipes like this in the future.