As always, we returned from our Easter long weekend road trip with a car boot full of organic produce from my father’s autumn garden. Each time we visit my family in Canberra I am reminded what a privilege it is to be able to prepare meals from scratch, with just picked fruit and vegetables from the garden just a little over 100 metres from the kitchen window. Organic, fresh and bursting with flavour.
Each visit our bounty is different, reflecting the changing of the seasons. In Autumn, with the onset of frosts and cold, the emphasis is well and truly on hardier offerings. Soft berries, stone fruit, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant, cucumber, beans and lettuces give way to sturdier offerings . This time around there were pumpkins, silverbeet, capsicums, chillies, pomegranate and a huge array of sturdier herbs. We were even lucky enough to score the very last of the summer basil before it’s left to go to seed.
Three hundred food miles later, back in my Sydney kitchen and reeling from my long weekend of Easter overindulgences, I’ve decided to put some of that produce to good use. The result? A 5-2 fast day Pumpkin and Spinach Dahl. It’s fresh, vibrant and enormously satisfying. And may I unreservedly say – 216 calories (for a very generous overflowing cup serve) never tasted so good. Thanks Dad. We so appreciate your labour of love, your garden.
Pumpkin and Spinach Dahl
Makes 6 cups (216 calories per generous cup serve)
1 cup red lentils (675 calories)
1 butternut pumpkin, peeled, de seeded, cubed into 2.5cm chunks (500g prepared weight) (130 calories)
2 vine ripened tomatoes, peeled and diced (44 calories)
2 tablespoons olive oil (240 calories)
1 medium brown onion, finely chopped (44 calories)
1 long red chilli, finely chopped (18 calories)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, grated (6 calories)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (8 calories)
1 teaspoon turmeric (8 calories)
1 teaspoon garam masala (10 calories)
½ teaspoon chilli powder (4 calories)
½ teaspoon sweet paprika (3 calories)
½ teaspoon ground cumin (4 calories)
½ teaspoon ground coriander (3 calories)
3 cups (750 ml) vegetable stock (60 calories)
thinly peeled rind of 1 lemon, peel only not bitter white pith
3 cups spinach or silverbeet, leaves only, no stalks, shredded (21 calories)
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon (12 calories)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
PLACE lentils in a bowl and wash thoroughly until the water runs clear. Drain and set aside.
HEAT one tablespoon oil in a heavy based pan or wok and sauté pumpkin pieces until they are golden all over. Remove to a large bowl and set aside.
ADD the remaining tablespoon oil to the wok, then add onion and cook until soft and translucent.
ADD chilli, ginger and garlic. Fry for a minute or so until fragrant, then add turmeric, garam masala, chilli powder, paprika, cumin and coriander. Stir well to combine before stirring in lentils, pumpkin, tomatoes, lemon peel and stock.
SIMMER, covered, over medium heat for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lentils have collapsed and pumpkin is soft. Add more stock or water, as required if the dhal becomes too thick.
STIR through shredded spinach or silverbeet. Simmer for another 2 – 5 minutes or so until greens have wilted, bearing in mind that the spinach will cook faster than the silverbeet.
REMOVE from heat, discard lemon peel. Season to taste with plenty of sea salt and freshly ground pepper.
SERVE with freshly squeezed lemon juice.