This is a blog of the 31 things we will be doing in the month of January 2010 as part of our sustainable communities group. This post explains it all.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

27. make Moroccan lentils and send others a recipe

This post is epic, but it's central to the whole 31 Days Challenge, as it features among other things lentil shopping, our monthly Sustainable Communities meeting where the challenge originated, numerous photos and links, a book review and three recipes.

Bon Appetit!

The lentils are still soaking and may by now have reached gigantic proportions (if anyone's seen the Young Ones episode where Vyvyan's hamster gets soaked overnight and blows up like a giant farty balloon, you'll know why I am slightly afraid to check on their progress after all this time submerged.)

No, actually, we're going to eat them for tea tonight to complete the number 27. "make Moroccan lentils and send others a recipe" challenge, but sadly not entirely Moroccan-ised as per Kelly's recipe as we are nearing the end of a pay fortnight and so will be substituting some of the ingredients we don't have for others that we do. Plums or apple instead of fresh ginger?

Here is the original recipe from Kelly, the founding member of our Norwood-Stepney Sustainable Communities Group (I finally found out the name last night at the meeting.)

This is one of my favourite recipes of late - sooo yummy and good for you.
I cook up a batch then freeze some. Happy cooking!

2 cups brown/reddish lentils (soak them overnight first in a large bowl of water)

(2 or) 3 fresh tomatoes grated or finely chopped

1 medium onion chopped
3 - 4 cloves fresh garlic crushed or finely chopped
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley or coriander (fresh coriander is best, and put it in near the end so it doesn't go too mushy)
2.5 teaspoons cumin powder

2.5 teaspoons paprika

1.5 teaspoons fresh chopped ginger

1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup olive oil (or thereabouts)

In a large soup pot, fry onion, garlic and ginger for 2 mins or so then add spices and continue to fry for another minute.

Add lentils and stir in.

Add 2 litres water and fresh tomatoes and bring to simmer.

Simmer lentils over medium heat about 1.5 hours, or until lentils tender and sauce is not watery. Add extra water if required to prevent lentils burning.
Add coriander or parsley near the end.
Adjust seasoning if desired and serve with rice or bread.

And this is Kelly!

While I'm at it, let me introduce the others in our little group. These pics are from the meeting last night at Rapsodie's place.


and Eleanor.

But to backtrack to yesterday's lentil mission. I don't know if the aforementioned Young Ones conditioned me at an impressionable age, but until recently I always associated lentils with the character Neil and his giant vats of bland, brown slop, a props department's dream.

My sister became a vegetarian as early as she was allowed to, which was 15, and I joined in when we moved out of home together when I was 20, due to a combination of the example she set, having to cook all our own food and so chop up a lot of meat, and reading Peter Singer.

I've been vegetarian for years now so I love beans, tempeh, hummous and so on, but I never really got lentils. Hippie friends would wax lyrical about the virtues of their dahl, but I continued to carry this prejudice towards lentils as a desperate last resort, a source of protein for the last few days before pay. This meant that I have actually hardly ever tried them.

Which brings us to challenge 27. make Moroccan lentils and send others a recipe!

I was excited when the N-SSCG (the Norwood-Stepney Sustainable Communities local group) decided to share recipes and Kelly mentioned her Moroccan lentils. Would we finally learn the secret mysteries of dahl? If I can get into lentils, they are such a good cheap food.
Let's do it!

Step one
Plan to eat the lentil meal a day in advance to incorporate the overnight soaking. I'm not sure if the soak is just to soften the lentils for cooking and make them less farty or if it's also to remove toxins in the way that for soaking beans is an absolute health requirement. So we'll soak overnight until further clarification.

Step two
Head to the market, bulk food store, food co-op or other place of dry goods. We're trying to use less cans, to save money, waste and because they have a plastic lining that isn't so great for your health, but this means allowing enough time for the soak. When we first started with beans I found it a real hassle, but now it seems pretty simple (and even fun) to whack them in a bowl and cover with water overnight (and there's always the cans or the falafel house if you forget or don't feel like it).

This is us at the Adelaide Central Market, the repository of all things fresh, preserved and delicious.
About to grab a chai. But not with Bonsoy!

Despite the drought, Adelaide is blessed with an abundance of good, local food - anything that grows in a Mediterranean climate, plus a few adaptable varieties of produce that really thrive in more tropical or temperate places - like our tough little banana tree (half the size of its Queensland cousins), or apples and berries in the cooler pockets of the Adelaide Hills.
Unfortunately I was so busy taking a photo of John and me in the mirror that I forgot to take a shot of the market stalls - another time!
Actually it was Monday, which is not a market day, but a few shops stay open all week, including...Goodies and Grains.
Here we bought red, South Australian lentils for $2.50/kg. We bought 500 grams and I think it's going to make left-overs.

There were about five different varieties of lentils, some local and one organic. We went for the local.

Step 3. Soak lentils overnight, then next day follow Kelly's recipe!
(Later tonight.)

While we were in Goodies and Grains we also checked out the eggs. We've recently stopped being vegan and become ovo-vegetarians - with specific requirements for the eggs to be genuinely free range. We're really looking for eggs from chickens living as pets in suburbia (close to us) so we can buy or trade them regularly
(zucchinis anyone?), visit the chickens ourselves to make sure they get to run around the garden permaculture style, and have no rooster to fertilise the eggs.

Our objections to commercial free range set ups are that even free range commercial hens can be the offspring of battery hens, and the male chicks in these operations are killed as unproductive (this is why we're not eating free range dairy, because of the male calves). It was hard to figure out this decision, which was for health-convenience reasons - strict veganism is a lot easier to follow than this nuanced version - but we don't think unfertilised pet hen eggs are dodgy, for us.

Anyway, more of this in a forthcoming egg post (and thanks Leticia for the "egg route" suggestion - we'll make that excursion part of the challenge!)

Meanwhile, here is a weirdly shaped biodynamic freerange jumbo egg at Goodies and Grains!

We bought some as backup before we find the pet hen eggs, but later heard at the meeting (from Kelly, who's doing a vegan challenge for January) that if they don't have an Animal Liberation sticker on them, they're not kosher free range. Does anyone else know more about this?


Ghee. What is ghee? Is it vegan?

We also bought some organic wine from the market bottle-o, as planned for the meeting. I had hoped to take photos of the delights of the institution that is Wilson's Organics, where we first discovered these gorgeous wines and much more wonderful organic goodness, but it was closed for the holidays.

Here's the wine.

I might add that yesterday's excursion was undertaken with 10 kilogram weights strapped to our legs, or rather what felt like 10 kilogram weights due to the 48 hour post-exercise rule - that you will feel it the worst two days afterwards. We were crippled after the Mt Lofty bushwalk - the bracing to walk 4k down the hill. But we want to go back (it can only get easier, right?)

We borrowed John's parents' car and drove to the meeting, which was one suburb over. We rarely drive anywhere, yet we've driven to 2 out of 3 meetings, one of which was about 1km down the road. I don't know if it's some sort of balance redressing thing ("We're doing something good so we can "afford" to drive there") or a rebellion ("We're sick of being righteous all the time, let's just drive!").

More likely it's that we're running short of time. I want to write a post about juggling environmentally sustainable behaviour with full-time work (we're studying and creating stuff using savings and government pensions for money, so we have more flexible schedules, but I'm starting to realise not much more time than people with jobs).

Last night, I was fighting a cold (which has now gone), we had to get to the meeting, and we remembered that we needed to water my folk's garden before the next hot weather period, which has started today. (I want to write another post about enviros and feeling the need to make excuses. Whatever - our legs hurt!) So we borrowed the car and made it home after everything at about 11pm. I don't feel bad. Absolutism can kill any enthusiasm for trying to change.

We had a good night. Here are some pics.
Rapsodie's cute little street seemed to have a fashion for painted garbage bins.

The house we assumed was hers due to the shade cloth and lemon tree watering systems.

Check it out. I'd been wondering how to water our own four trees effectively and now we know!

Rapsodie's actual house, or rather, garden, built on top of a former swimming pool!

Rocket gone to seed.

Rainwater tank!

Slightly hijacked by the wine, the one we brought plus a bottle of organic red of Rapsodie's, we nevertheless made plans to attend a screening of the movie "Fresh", which will be put on by another sustainable communities group in western Adelaide, for John and me to have our soil tested for toxins from our railway sleeper garden bed (Rapsodie lent us a soil testing kit to check out the PH, too), and heard about the other's January challenges - Kelly to go vegan, Eleanor to cook a vego meal once a month for 2010 and Rapsodie to try for no waste for a month.

We found out that the soft plastics waste recycling depot is no longer taking household plastic, and planned to contact Zero Waste SA to demand an alternative, that I have been overwatering our tomatoes and tomato-related veggies and need to give them tough love so they'll fruit, what people's eco footprints are in hectares and what's making them that size, various details about government rebates for solar, insulation and water tanks, and more that I'll remember when I see the minutes.

We also invited Kelly, Eleanor and Rapsodie to contribute to this blog about their January challenges, so hopefully we'll feature some of their posts in the next couple of weeks.

Meantime here is Eleanor's recipe, this time a dahl soup option. Don't forget the lemon!

Madhur Jaffrey recipe.

Serves 8 people

275gm green or yellow split peas (washed)
1.5L of vegetarian stock
24 peppercorns and 15 whole cloves (tied in cheesecloth)
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2-3/4 tsp salt to taste

8 lemon wedges

Combine the split peas and stock in a pot and bring to the boil. Remove scum from the top.
Add the spices in the cheesecloth, the turmeric, and the salt. Cover, lower heat, and simmer gently for 1-1.5 hours or until the peas are tender. Remove cheesecloth from soup, squeeze its juices into soup, and discard.
Press the soup through a strainer (well worth it guys), using the back of a wooden spoon, or put it through a food mill.

Serve with lemon

Freezes well - just make sure you use the lemon!

And here is our recipe. I realised at the meeting that my current infatuation with eggs would leave Kelly hungry throughout January, so pancakes are off the menu and a garden salad (literally, woo!) is on.

You will need:

One salad plot.

You could also use ingredients from the market - super, farmers or whatever, but I have to rave about growing salad because it is so amazingly rewardingly fun I want to share it! So, even if this is the lengthiest recipe you've ever followed, if you some time make it from your own salad plot it'll blow your mind, your tastebuds and make you happy.

This is a revolutionary, invaluable book:
One Magic Square
After reading the introduction you are basically inspired to go outside and make a 1 metre square garden bed on the spot. (The author is a local woman, Lolo Houbein and she is appearing at a session at the Friends of the Earth Reclaim the Food Chain convergence on all things food, From Plains to Plate, this February in Adelaide.)

Magic squares are great, but large pots are good too. You can even pick up ready to eat herb pots already containing chives, basil, lettuce etc etc, or some cheap seedlings from a nursery to transplant into a big pot, or keep in several small ones. Then just pick the ingredients for the salad leaf by leaf. So good!

I made this salad while John was pulling up weeds for the weed tea the other night. You can use anything that's to hand for the greens. Our salad plot is an old bathtub gleaned from down the street (the one that drains onto the lemon tree).

Summer Bathtub Salad


a handful of various greens (in this case cos and other lettuce leaves, basil, baby rainbow chard and beetroot leaves)

4 small zucchini, preferably with flowers attached (we have 4 zucchinis and admittedly the plants are enormous, but you could grow just one in a big pot, or substitute zucchini for tomatoes that are very pot-friendly.)

handful of walnuts

Dressing -
1/8 glass olive oil
1/7 glass balsamic vinegar
teaspoon mustard
teaspoon honey/brown sugar/maple syrup - anything dark and sweet
herbs finely chopped (we had chives, marjoram, sage and basil in the bathtub)
1 clove of garlic, very finely chopped

Steam the zucchs until tender but still crunchy (about 10 minutes) (or slice up 3 tomatoes) and arrange on top of a bed of the various greens.
Sprinkle walnuts on top and toss.
Mix dressing together with a fork til mustard and sweetner dissolve and pour over raw salad.
Toss salad and taste, adding another batch of dressing if needed to coat all the salad with a generous amount of delicious dressing.

Ok John's home and I think it's time for the Moroccan lentils.

Here's some Kelly made earlier.

I'll post a pic of our version later, and email the link to this page to the rest of the group to fullfill the "send others a recipe part", but having got this far I think I can say that we're already converts to the way of dahl.

Neil would be proud.


  1. comments, comments.... very interesting read cass. I have a friend who is doing the 100 mile diet (modified as the 160km diet) her family are based in Aldinga and are going to do it for the next year.... it will be interesting to see how they go. She is keeping a blog record too. its called "life without anchovies".

    your cute pick of the egg... ah you gonna have to get used to that... natural home grown eggs look like that sometimes, when hens are young they start with odd shaped eggs, I had an egg once that was about half size or smaller, and then when the chookins are really old their shells get longer and weirder in shape (like that one) and sometimes they loose their integrity and you get a freshly laid ooey gooey egg inner with a mutant shell...

    the lentil dish looks tasty. I make a really good lentil salad with brown rice, lentils, apple, celery, saltanas, parsley and lemon salt pepper cummin etc... tasty. lentils dont need to be about mush....
    food luck, good lunch, enjoy your journey!

  2. This recipe looks tasty - I love recipes I can make with stuff in my pantry! (I always have lentils in there) You used brown lentils, right?

    Ghee is clarified butter, so it's not vegan.

  3. moroccan lentils! yum!! i know what I'm cooking tonight.

    loving the blog guys.

    si. x

  4. love the sound of the bathtub salad - did you invent that recipe? your enthusiasm for growing yr own salad leaves inspires me to do same - its something we cd do easily in a big pot!

  5. Loving you all back!
    Hey Si and Ellie, go Jules!
    Hmm I just ate my third meal in a row of these tasty babies. So far no gigantic hampster metamorphosis, but perhaps 250g would have been enough - making it a measly 60c meal.
    Hi Steph, they were the brownish red ones but am sure it's adaptable.

  6. Ghee is clarified butter... I don't know how exactly it's different from regular butter, but it's dairy.