Advent 2013 Day 12 Daal and Christmas Trees (and flip turns)

This blog does not seem to go up to 11 this year. Apologies to anyone who was waiting impatiently for yesterday’s post. I pulled a double swim workout, ate sushi, and fell promptly asleep.

Wednesdays are my usual days to meet up with my little swim group that I am ostensibly in charge of – in that I’m bringing the training plans and modifying them as necessary as my little group gets more proficient at the crawl. After only two months learning from me (and having started pretty much at zero) one of them is already faster than me. So I’m either the world’s best swim coach or slow as the offspring from a turtle and a sloth. Or I should know better than to show 20 year old athletes new skills. Anyway, I’m quite proud of them and only slightly miffed at how fast they are.

And that’s not even my big swimming news! I couldn’t make the Monday swim class this week, so I got to make it up last night. Which means that after swimming for an hour, I took a 15 minute break and swam for another 45 minutes. The Wednesday night crowd is a bit more coordinated than the Monday morning group. At least some of them are. I actually might not have been the fastest, but it was a bit hard to tell because after the usual 20 minutes of various drills, we started to learn to flip turn! I did a flip turn! More than one! And I didn’t snort half the pool up my nose! I clearly need a lot of work at them and I sort of miss the wall about a third of the time, but I CAN DO IT! It’s not that hard. Really.

So that was yesterday. Also yesterday I put up our tiny Christmas tree. We’ll be away for Christmas this year so the Wife thought we didn’t need one, but I love putting up trees. So I got a tiny little potted spruce for 10 Euros and a pretty table runner with stars on it for 4, pulled out our paper decorations and after about half hour’s work, we had a tree. The Wife has been working crazy hours and has been a bit stressed at work. I was hoping this would help, so I left it on when I left for the pool (she out of work in time to grab her swim stuff from home and join me for the second swim hour and got 2300 good relaxing meters in while I learned to flip turn (did I mention that I learned how to do a flip turn yesterday?)).

This is what she saw when she got home yesterday. She said it worked. Yay for tiny trees!

This is what she saw when she got home yesterday. She said it worked. Yay for tiny trees!

Today’s recipes are healthy and vegetarian, and I actually managed to make them today while I was busy doing all the things.

My daal recipe is taken pretty much verbatim from the dairy free cooking section of about.com. I usually add a tiny bit more red pepper powder (mine’s not exactly cayenne, it’s the really spicy red pepper that you can get in the Indian food store) and less broth when I want a more stew-like consistency.

Semi-authentic Daal

Ingredients:

  • 1 T. sesame oil (you can use olive oil here, but the sesame oil is so much tastier)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 T. finely grated fresh ginger
  • 4 cups water or vegetable broth (the veggie broth gives it some depth of flavor)
  • 1 cup dried red lentils, rinsed and picked over
  • 1 t. cumin
  • 1 t. coriander
  • 1 t. tumeric
  • ¼ t. cardamom (or 3 to 4 cardamom pods, crushed with mortar and pestle)
  • ¼ t. cinnamon
  • ¼ t. cayenne pepper (any hot pepper powder will do and more can be added to taste)
  • 1 t. salt, or to taste (none necessary if you add veggie broth)
  • 2 T. tomato paste

Preparation:

1. In a 3-quart stockpot or other medium-sized soup pot, heat the sesame oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic and ginger. Cook, stirring often, until the onions are translucent, about 6 minutes.

2. Stirring constantly, add the water or broth, lentils, spices and salt. Bring to a low boil, then turn down the heat to low, cover and let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, or until lentils are very tender.

3. Stir in the tomato paste until well combined. Cook several minutes more, or until the soup is desired temperature and consistency, adding more water to the dahl if needed. Serve with yoghurt and chapatis.

Chapatis

(yes, you can make your own, it’s easy!) I had no idea that chapatis (Indian flat bread) are so easy to make.  And fun. But you have to encourage them.  No bad-mouthing or talking down to the chapatis as they cook.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups chapati flour (white will work just fine)
  • Warm water (enough to make a pliable dough – start with 1/3 cup)
  • 1-2 tsp olive oil (for the dough)
  • Salt to taste
  • Additional flour for work surface
  • Cooking oil for pan (Canola works. Any oil with a relatively high smoke point and little flavor will do. I.e. no olive oil or sesame oil for the pan.)

Preparation

  1. Mix flour, salt, water, and olive oil to form a smooth dough.  That’s the key – working the dough enough to make a nice, really smooth dough. It should be about the consistency of fresh Play-Doh, but a bit stickier. I start with a spoon and switch to hands after the water is incorporated. Don’t be afraid to work it for a while.
  2. Let rest for 10 minutes or so
  3. Preheat pan to medium high heat with a tiny amount of cooking oil to coat pan
  4. Roll into small (about 1.5 inch or 4 cm diameter) balls
  5. Coat each ball lightly with flour and roll out to about 6 inch (15 cm) diameter (1/6 inch thick) circles.
  6. Fry each circle, flipping twice. The first time after you see little bumps on the top form (and light brown on bottom) and the second after the bottom is light brown, just like the first side. Just after the second flip, use a kitchen towel to press the edges of the chapati down and encourage it to puff up (this is where you have to tell it that it is a good chapati, a clever chapati, and very pretty).  I’m not always successful getting them to puff up, but they taste ok anyway and have about the right consistency.
  7. Serve with daal or other Indian food. Or anytime you need a nice flat bread.
Today's dinner, Daal with a dollop of yoghurt in it, homemade chapatis and a bit of mango chutney. You'll know that I've gone off the deep end when I start canning my own mango chutney as well.

Today’s dinner, Daal with a dollop of yoghurt in it, homemade chapatis and a bit of mango chutney. You’ll know that I’ve gone off the deep end when I start canning my own mango chutney as well.

Captain Dukie checks out the bicycle ornament on mini-tree as paper cranes take flight. (wow, that's almost a haiku!)

Captain Dukie checks out the bicycle ornament on mini-tree as paper cranes take flight. (wow, that’s almost a haiku!)

Now, everyone sing with me :-)

 

 

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