Living life in the fast lane
Let’s talk about the struggle of putting delicious, healthy meals on the table while also juggling everything else on your plate (pun intended). Most of us today live a packed, fast-paced life, and we have some much going on all the time. At some point, we start feeling the pressure of keeping up with our social lives, families, friends, and pets….getting the right amount of exercise, being perfectly healthy, wanting to read a 100 books a year AND excelling in our careers! Are we superhuman or what? I might be exaggerating a bit, but for me, the struggle is real! Even though I love living the fast life, I do believe in taking the time to take care of myself, be it with good nutritious food, exercise, meditation and sometimes just taking some time to relax and do nothing (or as the Italian’s call it, dolce far niente).
But I digress… the point of today’s post is proving a point – it is possible to make healthy delicious food from scratch without slaving at the stove for hours on end. At the very least I hope that maybe I can give some ideas to those of you out there who, like me, want to cook healthy meals, but don’t have hours and hours on your hands to do so every single day.
One pot wonder, and my oven to the rescue
On the day I came up with this recipe, I had spent the better part of 2 hours getting to and back from work and worked a full day. It was a cold day, so I was craving something warm and comforting, and nothing is more comforting to me than a big bowl of lentil daal. By the time I stopped at the supermarket and drove home, it was after 7 pm and I still wanted to get on the mat for yoga practice before dinner. What I like to do in these cases, whether making a soup or curry, is put the veggies in the oven and let the oven do all the work. This gives me time to get on with other things I have on my to do list (and sometimes, it is just getting that quick workout in) while my dinner is cooking in the oven.
I threw the veggies onto a sheet pan with some baking paper, set the timer and got on my yoga mat. When I was done with my workout, all I had to do was chop up some garlic and ginger, prepare the rest of my ingredients and 20 minutes later – dinner is served!
About the recipe – Lentil Daal
A few notes about Lentil Daal – this is possibly one of my all-time favourite dishes. It is so so tasty, super nutritious and, best of all it is very easy and quick to make. The lentils in this recipe are split so they take just a few minutes to cook. You can use any vegetables you have at hand, and you can even cook it without vegetables as a side dish, in fact, this is the most traditional way of cooking Daal. I do like to sneak in some veggies into dishes whenever I can, and adding vegetables to the dish makes it more of a complete dinner, and adds more fibre making it more filling and more nutritious too.
What really adds that delicious, umami flavour is the tomato paste, plus I use whole tomatoes in this version too. The lemon at the end gives it a lovely tang that Indian style curries have. If you want to make this more of a soup, you can simply add more vegetable stock and water to the pot while it is cooking.
My partner really likes creamy curries (who doesn’t?!), so I added a couple of tablespoons of coconut milk (the thick canned type) at the very end to give the dish a creamy, well-rounded taste. I served my Daal with some warmed Naan bread, but it also goes really well with rice.
Here is the list of ingredients I used in this recipe and instructions on how to recreate this delicious warming dish. I hope you like this recipe, feel free to leave me a comment if you have any questions or comments to make!
Ingredients – serves 2 – 3 as a main course, 4 – 6 as a side dish
- 200 grams yellow split lentils – I soaked these in room temperature water while the vegetables were roasting – 10-15mins is more than enough since the lentils are split, they don’t need to soak for long.
- 3 whole tomatoes
- 2 carrots
- 1 small sweet potato or 1/2 a large sweet potato
- 1 zucchini
- 4 cloves of garlic, minced (add more if you like your daal to have an intense garlicky flavour)
- 1-inch piece of ginger, minced
- 2 teaspoon mustard seeds (I used 1 tsp yellow and 1 tsp black)
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon each of cumin seeds and ground fenugreek
- 1 teaspoon chilli flakes (optional and to taste)
- Vegetable stock 250 ml approx – I added some vegan bouillon to boiling water to make the stock
- Salt to taste
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 1/2 juice of a lemon (I used quite a lot in this recipe because I like the tang it adds to the dish, feel free to add a little a time and adjust according to your taste)
- Optional: 1- 2 tbsp of coconut milk
- Coconut oil for cooking, or if you are not vegan you can use ghee
How to make your one pot Daal
- Set your oven to 180 degrees Celcius and preheat while you prepare your vegetables.
- Leave the tomatoes whole, that way you don’t lose the juices while they roast :). Chop up the rest of the vegetables into equal bite-size pieces and spread onto a sheet pan. (I cover the pan with a piece of baking paper – this saves my dishes from getting crusted up with vegetable juices and pieces)
- Leave the vegetables to cook for around 30 – 40 minutes depending on your oven and settings.
- While vegetables are cooking you can prepare the rest of the ingredients and then put your feet up for a few minutes – you deserve it!
- Mince the garlic and ginger and assemble the spices onto a plate ready to go into the pan.
- Melt 1 tablespoon of coconut oil in a medium pot and add your garlic and ginger. After cooking them for a minute add the cumin seeds and mustard seeds.
- Let the seeds cook for a minute or 2 until they start to pop and add the rest of the spices – turmeric, fenugreek, and chilli flakes.
- Mix the spices in and then add the tomato paste and whole tomatoes to the spice mix.
- Use a wooden spoon to break down the whole tomatoes and start to blend the tomato paste, spices and tomatoes together.
- Add the lentils, roasted vegetables, and vegetable stock.
- Stir the Daal and bring it to a boil. Then cover and let it simmer on a low flame for around 10 minutes.
- Add in some salt to taste and the lemon juice. You can add a little lemon juice at a time until you reach your preferred taste.
- If you are using coconut milk add it in now.
- Taste the Daal, if the lentils are cooked you can take the pot off the heat and serve with Naan bread or rice.
- Enjoy while it is piping hot!
- You can make this ahead of time – in fact, I think it tastes even better the next day!!
- Add stock or water to the Daal to make it more liquid and soup like.
- If you don’t want to use your oven to roast the vegetables you can cook them in the vegetable stock before adding the lentils in. So at step 9, instead of adding the lentils, just add the vegetables. Let them cook in the stock and then when they are done, or nearly done add in the lentils and continue with the recipe.
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