Red Lentil Dahl with Grilled Aubergines

Isn’t it depressing to look out of the window at 7 o’clock in the evening and see, well, nothing? Getting home in the dark is one of the worst things about the winter in London. Second only to leaving the house in the morning in the dark.

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At this time of year, all I really want to do is throw on my PJs and my slippers (I have some Ugg ones- pure bliss!) and snuggle down with a big bowl of something warm and comforting.

This dahl really is the ultimate comfort food. It is a big huge bowl of steaming hot, somewhat stodgy, super delicious goodness. Really what’s not to love?! Plus- it is simply excellent for you! Lentils are an amazing source of iron, and for a lifelong vegetarian, iron can sometimes be a little hard to come by. Whenever I’m feeling a big run down, I erve myself up a big ol’ helping of lentils, usually with some kale thrown in for good measure too. Practically as irony as a steak!

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I must confess, I am absolutely not an expert of Indian food. I mean, I am an expert of eating Indian food, but that is about as far as my expertise stretch. There is one secret weapon that I always use- garam marsala. A good tablespoon of that, along with some mustard seeds and turmeric, and it will taste like you really know your Indian stuff! Eat this dahl as a side to your favourite curry- I love sweet potato and chickpea- or just have a big bowl of it as the main event.

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Red Lentil Dahl with Grilled Aubergines

1 small onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

2 teaspoons garam marsala

4oog red lentils

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 aubergine

handful coriander, optional

In a large saucepan, heat a splash of olive oil. Add your onion to the pan, and turn the heat down to low. Cook the onion for a few minutes until it starts to soften, the add your garlic. Cook for about another minute, then add your mustard seeds and garam marsala. Cook for about 3o seconds- the mustard seeds should start to pop.

Add your lentils to the pan. Pour water into the pan until it is about two inches about the lentils. Bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat and leave your lentils to simmer for about 2o minutes. They might absorb all the water, so keep an eye on them and add more if necessary. Stir in your ground turmeric.

Slice your aubergine into thin strips, and heat a splash of olive oil in a griddle pan. Fry the aubergine slices on each side for about 5 minutes, or until it is soft and starting to char.

When your lentils are about the consistency of porridge- they will sort of turn to mush (for want of a better word!), and you won’t be able to see individual lentils anymore- they are done! Season with salt and pepper to taste, then spoon a big dollop into a bowl, and top with a few strips of aubergine and a pinch of chopped coriander, if using.

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Enjoy!

xxR

Gluten Free Oat Bars with Dark Chocolate and Pistachios

I spent an embarrassingly large proportion of my university life in Pret. I’m reluctant to admit that I’m actually in Pret now, savouring a mug of green tea and stealing wifi on my lunch break.

During the hours I spent, perched on a Pret bench, revising, pretending to revise and/ or avoiding revision, I developed a real affinity for the so-called ‘Love Bar,’ a gooey flapjack-like bar, flavoured with pumpkin and vanilla, topped with a soft caramel sauce, dark chocolate chunks and pistachios. There is something ridiculously addictive about that combination, or perhaps I what I became addicted to was simply not being in the library…

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Either way, it is absolutely fair to say that I ate more than my fair share of Love Bars during my four years at the Courtauld, spending way too much money and probably eating way too much sugar. The money I can feel somewhat better about, as Pret donate a percentage from each sale of a Love Bar to homeless charities.

I eventually decided that enough was enough- I could no longer justify the £1.50 (it is impossible to eat a Love Bar without a cup of free tea, so the total spenditure of any of my Pret visits was a minimum of £3.10- not much, but trust me it all adds up!)

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I have since created my own version of the Love Bar- but one that is entirely gluten, dairy and refined sugar free. Instead of pumpkin, I used sweet potato to flavour the oats, as well as give them a gooey texture. The caramel is made of coconut oil and honey, and the bars are topped with dark chocolate chunks and pistachios. I devoured the entire batch in under three days….

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Oat Bars with Dark Chocolate and Pistachios

For the bars:

1 large sweet potato

100g coconut oil

3 large tablespoons honey

250g gluten free oats

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Pierce your sweet potato and roast for about 45 minutes, or until it is very soft. It has to be soft enough to mash easily, so don’t worry about leaving it in for a bit longer than you normally would!

Meanwhile, melt the coconut oil and honey together in a saucepan. When the sweet potato is done, take it out of the oven and mash it – well! You want it to be as smooth as possible. Stir the oats and mashed sweet potato into the coconut oil and honey mixture and stir well, making sure everything is completely combined.

Grease a large pie dish and spoon the mixture in, flattening it down. Bake it for 25 minutes, or until it starts be golden around the edges.

For the topping:

3 tablespoons coconut oil

3 tablespoons honey

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

5og dark chocolate, roughly chopped

5og pistachios, roughly chopped

Mix the coconut oil and honey together until you have a thick paste. Add the vanilla extract and mix well. When the oats are completely cool, pour the mixture over the top. Sprinkle the chocolate and pistachios on. When the topping has hardened slightly, cut them into squares.

Wash down with a lot of green tea (optional) and donate some money to a homeless charity (recommended).

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xxR