Roast vegetable lasagne

I found about this recipe from my friend Richard. We used to work together some years ago and, both keen cooks, got into the habit of discussing what we had cooked the night before over our morning coffee. The habit has survived, even though our conversations are now less regular and mostly by phone and email.

Last time I rang Richard, he said he was cooking a roast vegetable lasagne. Lasagne al forno con le verdure was a variant of a recipe by Anna del Conte for Pennoni con le verdure arrostite in her 1976 cookbook Portrait of Pasta (link is to the updated edition). As he reported it a success, I asked for the recipe and have cooked it three times since: twice as lasagne and once with penne (Waitrose not running to pennoni just at the moment – sometimes, indeed, not to any pasta at all). It has everything to recommend it – simplicity, flexibility and excellent flavour from the combination of ricotta with the roasted vegetables.

These quantities serve four, but I have tended to roast the quantities of vegetables that I have to hand – generally fewer red onions and more aubergine – and have used either large tomatoes or an equivalent quantity of cherry tomatoes. You could probably use tinned tomatoes at a pinch. Anna del Conte suggests that you can do a version using roast root veg (such as celeriac and turnips) or squash instead of the mediterranean vegetables here, making this an ideal recipe for lockdown cooking – it is really adaptable. Richard didn’t have ricotta for the topping and used a combination of Philadelphia cream cheese and mascarpone, and we’ve used a combination of cream cheese and fromage frais, all of which worked fine. So, experiment with impunity. It’s also easy to scale up or down. If you’re feeding fewer people, you could roast the full quantity of vegetables, have half the quantity with pasta, and eat the rest warm with lentils, as a salad with couscous and goat’s cheese or use them as a filling for a tart (like this one by Ottolenghi).

  • 4 ripe tomatoes peeled
  • 150g aubergine (½ a large or a whole small one)
  • 1  courgette
  • 1 red or yellow pepper
  • 2 red onions
  • 3 tbsps olive oil
  • 1 bulb of garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6-10 sheets lasagne
  • 250g ricotta
  • 250g mozzarella
  • Grating of nutmeg (optional)
  • Parmesan cheese (optional)

For roast vegetables with penne

  • Handful of fresh basil
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 350g penne or pennoni
  • Parmesan cheese

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/180°C fan. To peel the tomatoes put them in a heat-proof bowl, cut a small cross over the stem, cover them in boiling water and leave for 2-3 minutes. Run quickly under cold water so you can handle them and you should be able to pull the peel away easily using a small sharp knife.  I have to confess to not always peeling the tomatoes, so feel free to do likewise if you don’t mind a bit of tomato skin.

Thickly slice the tomatoes, aubergine, courgette and red onions. Seed, core and quarter the pepper, then cut the pieces in half again. Put all the vegetables except the garlic into a roasting tin and pour 3 tbsps oil over them then add the peeled but whole garlic cloves. Season with salt and plenty of pepper. Bake for 40 mins until soft and slightly browned.

Roast vegetables with penne

If you are having the roasted vegetables with penne/pennoni, beat the remaining 3 tbsp of oil in a small bowl with the torn up basil. Boil the pasta in a large pan of well-salted water for the time stated on the packet (mine took 10 minutes), drain it, then add the basil oil and spoon the roasted vegetables over the top. Serve with parmesan. Apparently this can also be eaten cold – if you try this, let me know what you think.

Roast vegetable lasagne

Lower the oven temperature to 180°C/160°C fan. Lightly oil a square or rectangular baking dish. Put in alternate layers of the roasted vegetables and sheets of lasagne, ending with a layer of vegetables. I had three layers of veg and used six sheets of lasagne in two layers. You can add some of the ricotta (say, about 40%) to the second layer of vegetables if you like (I do). Dot the ricotta over the top layer of vegetables and finally grate or crumble the mozzarella over it. I grated nutmeg over the ricotta, but don’t feel obliged to do the same – I just love nutmeg, especially with ricotta. Anna del Conte doesn’t include parmesan but Richard added some, and I think it is a good idea, giving the lasagne a pleasing browned top.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes and leave for 5 mins before serving with a green salad.

Pasta with pesto and green beans

One of the side-effects of lockdown is that I am spending more time – probably too much time – browsing through recipes on Instagram. The upside is that I have time to try out  new recipes, or in this case cook dishes that I had forgotten about.  A few days ago I saw a post by Rachel Roddy, about making trofie (little twists of pasta) which she cooked with green beans and diced potato, then tossed with pesto alla Genovese. Now, of course, Rachel Roddy made her own fresh pasta, which is not something I aspire to do – even if there were any pasta flour in my cupboard, which there was not. But it did remind me what a great combination this is and sent me back to a Claudia Roden recipe for Trenette al pesto alla genovese. I had some left-over potatoes and half a packet of green beans, so when I found a lovely big bunch of basil in a local shop, the decision about what to cook for lunch was made.

The pasta I had in my drawer was Casarecce – another small-ish rolled pasta, about the same size as half a green bean and with a little channel which I thought would hold the pesto nicely. You can cook the potatoes from scratch or, as I did, use left-over new potatoes – to be exact la Ratte potatoes, which are particularly delectable, waxy new potatoes well worth the extra pennies they cost if you can get hold of them (or grow them, those of you lucky enough to have a garden or allotment). You do need to use new potatoes for this recipe, or they will just fall apart in the pasta water. I have played fast and loose with the proportions of the recipe – Claudia Roden suggests 2 medium new potatoes and 4-6 green beans, but like quite a lot of beans, and I use less olive oil than she suggests in the pesto. You could omit the parmesan, or use a vegan alternative, to make it vegan.

I think a tomato salad is a good accompaniment, but it is perfectly delicious served in solitary splendour. The smell of fresh pesto is a great antidote to cabin fever; it is such a sunny smell that brings memories of being in Italy. For two, but adjust the quantity of  pasta to your appetite if you wish.


  • 25g fresh basil (weighed with stems)
  • 25g pine nuts
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3-4 tbsp/45-60ml olive oil
  • salt
  • 2 tbsp grated parmesan


  • 4 small waxy new potatoes
  • 120g green beans
  • 130g caserecce (or trofie or fettuccine or whatever small-ish pasta is in your drawer)
  • grated parmesan to serve

First make the pesto: peel and chop the clove of garlic and roughly chop the basil, stems and all. Put all the ingredients into a small blender or food processor and whizz to combine. I started with 3 tbsp of olive oil and then found it needed a little more (Roden uses 75ml of olive oil). Add salt to taste – I used two good big pinches of Maldon salt. If you’re not going to use the pesto immediately spoon it into a jar and film the top with olive oil.

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil. Top and tail the green beans and cut them in half. Peel and dice the potatoes. My pasta took about 10 minutes to cook – if the type you are using has a different cooking time, then you will need to adjust the timings that follow – or cook the vegetables and pasta in separate pans (though you know how much I like to avoid washing up!). If you are using raw potato, put it into the water first and cook for three minutes before adding the pasta – the following instructions are as I cooked it, using cooked potatoes which were at room temperature.

When the water comes to the boil add the pasta and set the timer for 5 minutes, then add the beans and set the timer for 4 minutes. Add the diced potato and cook for another minute or two by which time everything should be cooked and hot. Put a ladleful of the cooking water in a mug, then drain the pasta and vegetables and tip them back in the pan. Stir through the pesto and add the cooking water you set aside a bit at a time until the sauce is the right consistency to coat the pasta nicely. Serve with extra parmesan and a tomato salad if you wish.


Fish parcels with leeks and potatoes

This easy delivers a very tasty fish supper all in a convenient package. The original recipe, from the Waitrose magazine, specified loch trout fillets but could be made using any trout or salmon fillets or a white fish like haddock instead. We used a smaller quantity of new potatoes than they suggested (300g), so do up the quantity if you wish. Also, they have you boil the potatoes and, briefly, the leeks, which in our experience leads to sogginess so I recommend steaming them instead.

No photo for this – too busy eating it!

  • 200g new potatoes
  • 1 large or 2 small leeks
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 shallot
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 10g tarragon
  • 250-300g trout, salmon or haddock

Preheat the oven to 160°C Fan/180°C/Gas Mark 4. Bring a pan of water with a steamer to the boil. I am still using my mother’s ancient steamer almost daily – a nice reminder of her. Wash the potatoes, halve them if small or cut into similar sized pieces. Steam for about eight minutes.

Trim the leeks and rinse them thoroughly under running water. Cut into 1cm chunks (a bit finer if your leek is very fat). When the potatoes have had their 8 minutes add the leeks to the steamer for a final 2-3 minutes, by which time both vegetables should be just tender to the point of a knife. Take off the heat.

Finely chop the shallot, capers and tarragon, then whisk them into the mustard and vinegar in a small bowl to make a dressing. You can prepare up to this point in advance (in which case don’t preheat the oven until 20 minutes before you want to cook the fish).

Cut 2 large squares of foil or greaseproof paper and divide the vegetables evenly between them. Place a fish fillet on each one, then pour the dressing over them. Fold the edges over and place the two parcels on a baking tray. Bake for 15-16 minutes until the fish is cooked through and opaque. You may need to allow a couple of minutes longer if you are using a fat fillet of white fish.

Serve with broccoli, spinach or beans on the side if you wish.

Perfect Moussaka

This is going onto the blog by special request, as Irene enjoyed it so much last night. We used to eat moussaka a lot when I was growing up, though in a rather different version from the one I cooked last night.

I have just found my mother’s recipe in my first recipe notebook (repurposed – it has art ‘O’ level notes in the back!): aubergine, courgette or marrow (it was the 1970s!) and a green pepper were sliced, dipped in seasoned flour and fried in olive oil until pale gold.  Minced lamb or beef was fried gently with finely chopped onion, seasoning and bayleaf or herbs – no garlic mentioned. Then the vegetables, meat and peeled tomatoes (tinned or fresh) were layered into a dish, topped with a thick cheese sauce and baked at Gas 5/6 for 30-45 minutes. What strikes me is that I didn’t give any quantities, and barely any method, so it was clearly just a reminder for something I knew how to cook.

The idea of making a moussaka came from having leftovers from the roast lamb we ate on Sunday (I’m trying to reinstate traditional Sunday lunches as a way of differentiating the days in lockdown). Having browsed a number (far too many) recipes, I took a lead from Felicity Cloake’s recipe in the Guardian for the sauces but then went off piste a bit.

The main thing I find about many recipes is that they end up very rich because of frying the aubergines in a lot of oil. This is undoubtedly traditional and delicious but, alas, my calorific requirements are rather lower than those of a Greek farmer! Cloake improves on this by brushing the sliced aubergine with oil and baking it, and I went one step further and cooked the aubergine with hardly any oil in my griddle pan. Traditionally you use kefalotyri cheese for the sauce but, surprise, I didn’t have any, nor pecorino or the cheddar I used as a teenager; parmesan proved an acceptable stand-in. The result was lighter – if you don’t think too much about the béchamel cheese sauce – and still delicious.

I don’t always salt the aubergines in advance, but did this time. The argument for doing it used to be that it drew out the bitter juices, which I never found convincing – maybe modern aubergines have had the bitterness bred out of them. More likely, it improves the flavour by salting the aubergines properly before you start cooking (see Samin Nosrat on salting in posts passim). I do think it’s worth doing, but you can, of course, skip it if you don’t have time.

I made half these quantities to use the small amount of leftover meat I had, which made just enough for two, but wished I had made a full quantity and had one for the freezer. Next time…


  • 2-3 aubergines
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt

Meat sauce:

  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 350-400g leftover roast, or minced, lamb
  • 1 bayleaf
  • 1 tsp dried oregano or thyme
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree stirred into 150 ml water
  • 100ml red wine

Béchamel sauce:

  • 350 ml whole milk
  • 40g butter
  • 40g flour
  • 40g parmesan or pecorino
  • 2 eggs
  • nutmeg to grate

Start by slicing the aubergine across into ½ cm slices – lengthways looks nice, but you end with two pieces that are all skin. Layer them into a colander, sprinkling generously with sea salt as you go. Leave for at least 30 minutes – I left mine for several hours, though heaven knows if I’ll manage that if/when life gets back to normal. Rinse and pat dry on a clean tea towel.

Finely chop the onion, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion over a medium heat until it starts to soften. Crush the garlic, add to the pan with the herbs and cinnamon and cook for a few more minutes, watching that it doesn’t brown or catch. If using leftover meat chop it roughly, removing any excess fat, skin or sinew. Turn up the heat and add the meat to the pan. If using fresh mince cook it until it is well browned and the mixture is fairly dry; if leftovers then just fry it for long enough to warm it through. Add the bayleaf, wine and tomato paste mixture, and bring up to a simmer. Turn the heat back down and leave to blip away while you get on with the rest of the dish.

Heat the oven to 180°C fan/200°C/Gas 6 and put the griddle pan on to heat. Brush the aubergine slices sparingly with olive oil (or you could use a spray). Once the griddle pan is really hot cook them in batches, turning them as needed – they should only take a few minutes each side. I found this needed my full attention so I don’t recommend trying to multi-task and make the béchamel at the same time!

Once all the aubergine is cooked, start on the cheese sauce. Heat the milk gently to just under boiling point, then turn off the heat. Meanwhile melt the butter in a separate saucepan and then add the flour all at once stirring thoroughly. Cook over fairly gentle heat for a couple of minutes until it starts to smell and look biscuity. Then add the hot milk gradually, stirring furiously to avoid lumps – I used a whisk – and cook for a few minutes until you have a thick, smooth sauce. Grate the parmesan and stir into the sauce, then take it off the heat and beat in the eggs one at a time. Season with salt, pepper (white pepper if you have it) and lots of grated nutmeg. By this time the meat sauce should have reduced nicely – just check it for seasoning.

Now assemble the dish: grease an ovenproof dish and start with a third of the aubergine slices, then half the meat sauce, repeat, add the final third of the aubergines and pour the sauce over the top. If you were super organised, you could do all of this ahead of time, put in the fridge and then bake it when you were ready to eat (in which case allow another 10-15 minutes in the oven). Bake for 30-40 minutes until the top is browned and puffed up and everything is piping hot. A green salad is, in my view, the best accompaniment.


Red cabbage, quinoa and avocado salad

Today’s lunch was a salad from delicious magazine, which was indeed delicious – healthy, satisfying and vegan too. More importantly at the moment, given restricted shopping opportunities, I had half a red cabbage in the fridge that needed eating, quinoa in the cupboard and broad beans in the freezer, so only needed to forage for some herbs, lime and an avocado, as the seasonings are store cupboard staples for me. The original recipe used edamame beans, but we prefer broad beans – do swap back if you wish. I have slightly upped the quantity of quinoa and cooked it from scratch: given that it takes all of 15 minutes to cook, I can’t bring myself to pay the extra for ready-cooked quinoa. You could use a good pinch of chilli flakes if you don’t have fresh chilli, watercress or lettuce instead of spinach and finely chopped shallot or red onion if you don’t have spring onions. And, at a pinch, you could probably omit the avocado and try it with lemon juice instead of lime .

The dressing is a sort of pesto made from mint, coriander and peanuts, flavoured with tamari soy sauce, sesame oil and lime juice, which we thought would also be good stirred through noodles and stir-fry vegetables. I think you could change the herbs – for example, to parsley or basil – if you can’t get mint or coriander, and use cashews or salted peanuts, if you haven’t got unsalted peanuts, just adjusting the salt in the dressing accordingly.

IMG_6225 2The sludgy green dressing and quinoa tinged pink from the cabbage mean that it isn’t a looker, but the taste makes up for it! We will definitely be making it again. Quantities are for two, generously – we had it with a slice of sourdough bread and couldn’t finish it all.

  • 1/4 red cabbage
  • 1 lime, zest and juice
  • 60g quinoa
  • 100g broad beans
  • 1 red chilli
  • 30g baby leaf spinach or other leaves
  • 2 spring onions
  • ½ ripe avocado


  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 10g coriander
  • 5g mint
  • 1 tbsp tamari soy sauce
  • 25g unsalted peanuts
  • a thumb of fresh ginger
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 1 tbsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp rapeseed oil

Trim away the thick core of the cabbage, slice it once lengthways to give two wedges, and then slice it thinly across the two wedges. Tip the ruby shards into a bowl, grate the zest of a lime over, then add the juice of the lime and season with salt and pepper. Toss all together and put on one side while you make the rest of the salad.

Rinse the quinoa and put in a medium saucepan with 180ml of water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Cook for 15-17 minutes until the tails of the seeds have uncurled and the water has all been absorbed. Leave it in the pin with the lid on until you are ready to use it. Cook the broad beans in boiling water for 3-5 minutes until tender, then refresh under cold water and drain. Wash the spinach (or other leaves) if necessary. Chop the red chilli – I used a whole, not too hot red chilli without the seeds, but feel free to adapt this depending on what you have and how much heat you like.

Pick the leaves of the mint off the stems, and put a few coriander leaves and peanuts aside to garnish the dish. Peel and grate the ginger and crush the garlic. Then put all the dressing ingredients (including the coriander stems) into a small blender/processor and whizz to a paste (or chop them all together very finely and mix in a bowl). I only put the juice of half a lime in the dressing, and squeezed a little more lime juice over the salad at the end, but don’t see that it makes much difference.

When you are ready to finish the salad mix the quinoa into the cabbage, then add the chilli, beans and most of the dressing, stirring well together. Slice or dice the avocado and finely chop the spring onion. Add these and the spinach to the salad, toss again and serve garnished with the remainder of the dressing and the reserved coriander leaves and peanuts.

Parsnip cakes

Vegan parsnip cakes with tomato sauce and purple sprouting broccoli

This easy and comforting supper recipe is adapted from Nigel’s midweek dinner in The Observer a few weeks ago. Having made it several times, I wanted to put it on the blog so that I don’t forget it. The original has smoked bacon in it, and I have made it with bacon and with pancetta lardons. The creamy curry sauce is nice but indulgent, so we have also had the parsnip cakes with just a pile of fresh greens too. You could liven up your greens – broccoli or purple sprouting would be good – by turning them in a little oil in which you have lightly cooked a sliced chilli. These quantities are for two moderate portions, though I have cut the quantities dramatically as, even when ravenous, I can’t put away 500g of parsnips!

For a vegan version, pictured, I used slowly cooked onions to flavour the parsnip cakes instead of bacon, and served it with the quick tomato sauce (though you could use Oatly crème fraîche or soy cream to make the curry sauce). I also wonder if it would be good to add some chilli flakes to the onions, but I haven’t tried that yet.

Note that the parsnip cakes need to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes after you’ve made them, which caught me out first time round. It is ideal if you can prepare ahead and have them ready to go for a quick supper, but less so if you start the recipe when you’re already hungry!

  • 500g parsnips
  • 100g smoked bacon or 1 onion
  • rapeseed or vegetable oil

For creamy curry sauce:

  • 4 tbsp of double cream or vegan alternative
  • 1 dstsp (or to taste) mild curry paste

For tomato sauce:

  • 1 can chopped tomatoes
  • a handful of basil or parsley
  • a dash of red wine vinegar

Greens to serve

Peel and trim the parsnips and cut into small-ish pieces. Steam over boiling water for 20-25 minutes until the parsnips are soft all the way through. Meanwhile, finely chop the bacon or onion and cook slowly in a heated frying pan (with some oil if using onion) until golden. Put aside.

Once the parsnips are totally soft, mash them in a bowl and mix in the bacon or onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Shape into four cakes with your hands and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. I did cook them straight away once (did I mention being caught out?) and they were fine – just a bit more fragile in the pan.

Heat some oil in a frying pan and cook the parsnip cakes for about 4 minutes each side until they are browned and crispy.

While they are frying, cook your greens and make the sauce. Either warm the cream and stir in the curry sauce, or heat the chopped tomatoes and season with the vinegar and chopped basil or parsley.

Serve the parsnip cakes with the sauce poured around and the greens on the side. Quick, cheap comfort on a plate.

Vegan parsnip cakes with tomato sauce and purple sprouting broccoli
Parsnip and onion cakes with tomato sauce and purple sprouting broccoli

Lentil dhal two ways

Irene made this dhal last weekend when my niece was staying, and we had it again last night, with different accompaniments. The recipe started with Anna Jones’s killer Dhal with crispy sweet potato and quick coconut chutney, but Irene adapted the method slightly to follow her mother’s practice. She cooks the onions first, then the garlic, ginger and chilli, and finally the spices to ensure they are thoroughly cooked before adding the lentils and stock. The two versions I give here are Dhal with sweet potato, and Dhal with roasted beetroot and greens.

The crispy sweet potato is very good with it. I have mixed feelings about the coconut chutney – I know you’re supposed to temper the dhal with spicy oil, but I quite like it just with some fresh coconut and coriander on top. How do I get fresh coconut? My little local Indian shop sells frozen grated coconut, which is incredibly convenient, as you can just break off what you need, and I think it has a better texture than desiccated coconut. While I’m on useful tips about coconut, I recently discovered coconut milk powder, which is an absolute boon for anyone who regularly cooks for one or two (or indeed six). Most recipes are for 4 servings and call for a 400ml tin of coconut milk, so I was forever ending up with half or three-quarters of a tin of coconut milk left over from a recipe and having to think of something else to cook with it in the short window before it went off. Coconut milk powder means you can make up just as much as you need, and you can make it thicker if your recipe calls for coconut cream (or indeed thinner if you’re trying to cut down on fat). All that, and it’s lighter to carry home from the supermarket too!

Yesterday we had dhal with roasted beetroot, stir-fried beetroot leaves and yoghurt. I had bought a lovely bunch of beetroot with fresh leaves from the greengrocers, but you could use chard or spinach if your beetroot doesn’t still have its leaves. If you don’t eat dairy, I think coconut yoghurt would be a really good alternative to greek yoghurt here, and you could add some chopped cucumber and a little ground cumin to it if you wished.

For both versions, start by roasting the vegetable accompaniment, then get on with the dhal while the vegetables are in the oven.

IMG_6072For dhal with sweet potato you will need:

  • 2 sweet potatoes
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • rapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 6 tbsps grated coconut (or to taste)

Heat the oven to 220°C/200°C Fan/Gas 7. Give the sweet potatoes a good wash – I use a soft vegetable brush – as you are going to cook them with their skins on. Roughly chop them into 1.5cm cubes and toss them with a drizzle of oil, some salt and pepper and the seeds (the fennel seeds are nice but not essential). Roast in the oven for 20-25 minutes by which time they should be soft, and well browned and crispy.

If using frozen grated coconut allow it to defrost. Alternatively, soak some desiccated coconut in boiling water to soften. Serve the sweet potatoes with the dhal, a good scoop of coconut and some chopped coriander. (The rather messy photo above shows the dhal and sweet potatoes with Anna Jones’s coconut chutney – and added broccoli!)

Dhal with beetroot and greensFor dhal with beetroot you will need:

  • a bunch of beetroot (4 large or 6-8 small)
  • Beetroot greens or a bunch of chard or 200g spinach
  • rapeseed or olive  oil
  • 150ml Greek or coconut yoghurt

Heat the oven to 200°C/180°C Fan/Gas 6. Cut off the tops of the beetroot, keeping the greens if you are using them (you can also eat the stems if they are in good condition) and trim the root end. Wash, and if using large beetroot cut into halves or quarters – small beetroot can be cooked whole. Put into a roasting dish into which they fit snugly, add 50ml of water and cover with foil. Roast for 40-50 minutes until the beetroot are tender to the point of the knife.

Once the beetroot are cool enough to handle, peel off the skins, which should slip off easily. Drizzle over a little oil, and season with salt and pepper.

While the beetroot is roasting, wash the beetroot or chard/spinach and slice roughly. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan or wok. Once it is hot stir fry the greens for a few minutes until wilted and glossy green. If you’re using the stems, add them first and cook them for a couple of minutes more than the greens. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the beetroot and greens with the dhal, a scoop of yoghurt and some chopped coriander.

The ingredients for 4 generous portions of dhal are:

  • 1 onion
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed or vegetable oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • a large thumb of fresh ginger
  • 1 green chilli
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 200g red lentils
  • 400 ml coconut milk (from a can or powder)
  • 400ml vegetable stock (we used vegan Marigold bouillon)
  • 50g spinach (unless you are having greens separately)
  • a small bunch of fresh coriander
  • juice of 1 lemon

Put the oil to heat in a large saucepan. Roughly chop the onion and cook over a slow heat – I started it at 5 and then turned down to 4 on my induction hob – for at least 5 minutes until the onion is soft and golden.

Grind the cumin and coriander seeds, add them to the pan with the turmeric and cinnamon and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring, until the scent of the spices rises. Now add the lentils and stir them about so that they are coated with the spicy onions.

Add the coconut milk and stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook gently for 20-25 minutes. If you are having spinach, wash it and stir it in until it has wilted – Anna Jones specifies two handfuls of spinach but I tend to make those rather generous handfuls, so you can decide how much you want. Finally, add the lemon juice and chopped coriander – keeping some back to garnish the dish – and serve with your chosen accompaniment.

You could, of course, serve the dhal with brown rice for a more substantial meal, with your favourite curry, or with other roasted vegetables – cauliflower roasted with cumin is next on my list to try!