Lentil Lancashire Hotpot

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The autumn feeling is coming in Berlin and this calls for more hearty food. The last few weeks have been tough as we get into the new school year and the inevitable tiredness also means we look towards comforting food. Lancashire Hot Pot is a traditional English dish made with lamb but it is the crispy sliced potato topping that I really associate with the dish from my childhood. Here the filling is made of chana dhal which retains a little bite and is made rich and succulent with mushrooms, wine, tomatoes and lots of herbs. It can be a meal in itself or served with piles of green veg like cabbage, broccoli and kale. I also made a thick gravy to serve it with.

Ingredients 

Serves 4 as a main course

250g dried chana dhal

A large onion, finely chopped

A large carrot, finely chopped

10 medium mushrooms sliced

2 large, ripe tomatoes chopped

a tablespoon tomato puree

A clove of garlic

2 tablespoons olive oil

Dried thyme and oregano

100ml red or rose wine

1 vegetable stock cube

100ml of water

3 large potatoes very thinly sliced

Salt and pepper to taste

Put the lentils in a saucepan and cover with water. Bring to the boil and simmer until starting to soften but still having a firm bite. This will take about 30-40 minutes.  Meanwhile, sautee the onion, garlic, carrots and mushrooms in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for about 5 minutes to soften. Add the drained, just cooked, lentils and all of the rest of the ingredients, except the remaining oil, and the potatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are properly cooked but not mushy. If you prefer, you could cook them softer. Season to taste and spoon the lentil mixture into the bottom of a wide shallow dish. By using a wide dish, you get a larger surface area to layer your potatoes and there is a better chance they will crisp up. Toss the potato slices in the remaining olive oil. Then layer them carefully over the top of the lentil mixture, overlapping the slightly. You can chose to have one or two layers deepening on how filling you want it to be. Season the potatoes. Place the dish into a medium oven for about 20-30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked and brown and crispy on top.

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Spelt Salad with Broccoli, Walnuts and Pomegranate

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Having developed a recent interest in the macrobiotic diet and its emphasis on whole grains, I am a recent convert to spelt. They call it dinkel in Germany and I think that is a much nicer name, making it sound more whimsical. I actually prefer the spelt raw and soaked for about 24 hours. I add it to stir fries and salads but I know that some people find it irritates their digestive system, so I have cooked it here. I made this really spicy with some great locally grown chillies I bought in a big bunch on the market  in Berlin yesterday but you can leave it out all together if you prefer. This really is a meal in itself and it is delicious. It is chewy and crunchy and sweet and very savoury, all at the same time and, of course, incredibly nutritious. I served it on a bed of baby spinach leaves and we ate it with the soba noodle salad but we are greedy.

Serves 2 as a main meal or 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

50g of raw spelt boiled for about 20 minutes until it is still chewy but not hard

A handful of raw broccoli very finely shredded

A handful of finely chopped cucumber

2 large handfuls of fresh coriander chopped

Seeds from half a fresh pomegranate

A large handful of walnuts, toasted in the oven for 10 minutes and roughly chopped

A tablespoon of olive oil

A teaspoon of cider vinegar

The juice of half a small lemon

2 teaspoons of tahina

Half a teaspoon of dijon mustard

A tiny amount of crushed raw garlic

1 large chilli very finely chopped

Salt and black pepper to taste

Combine all of the fresh ingredients with the spelt in a large bowl. Combine the oil, vinegar, lemon juice, tahina, mustard, garlic and chilli to make a dressing. Pour dressing onto the salad. Season to taste.

 

 

 

Japanese Soba Noodle Salad

 

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The summer has returned briefly in Berlin and it is making me crave for light, tasty dishes, especially salads. This could be made with baby spinach or shredded raw broccoli or you could add carrot and courgettes. I like to use the baby cucumbers as they are the only ones I really like but I still take out any seeds so it is not watery. Although it is not to everyones` taste, I think the seaweed is essential for that real Japanese flavour and it is very healthy. You can buy bags of dehydrated wakame in Asian supermarkets. You only need a tablespoonful of dried seaweed to make a large handful when it is rehydrated. To make a full meal, grilled or fried tofu marinated in teriyaki sauce would work really well.

Serves 2 as a main dish or 4 as a side dish

Ingredients

100g of uncooked soba noodles

A handful of finely shredded, raw, white cabbage

A handful of finely chopped cucumber

A handful of rehydrated wakame, roughly chopped

A handful of fresh coriander finely chopped

A tablespoon on sushi vinegar

A tablespoon of light soya sauce

A dessertspoonful of sesame oil

Half a chilli finely chopped (to taste)

A tiny amount of crushed garlic

Half a thumbnail size piece of fresh ginger finely chopped

A tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds for garnish

Cook the soba noodles briefly for about 3-4 minutes so they still have a bite. Refresh in cold water. Mix all of the raw vegetables and noodles in a large bowl. Make up the dressing with the remaining ingredients. Pour the dressing onto the salad and mix well. Sprinkle on the sesame seeds to finish.