August should not be wet and rainy. It should not involve 'localised flooding', broken umbrellas and soggy socks. I should not be thinking of using my hot water bottle in the office. This August has been rubbish, weather-wise. It's never Edinburgh's finest month, which is a real shame, as it's when the tourists flood to town to enjoy the city and it's atmosphere during the festival.
This is my fourth festival - my third as a local, and like every year I do feel like I should probably take a bit more in. Alas though, like every year, I can't quite bring myself to spend £14 on watching a comedian who may (or most likely may not) be funny. It was at my second festival - my first as a local - that I first 'discovered' lentil daal, whilst chomping down some Mosque Kitchen with a friend. I'm sure my parents will say that I grew up eating lentil daal, and they're probably right, but for some reason I don't think I ate it for the entire 3 years of my undergraduate degree and therefore the first time I actively ate it as an adult classes as the 'discovery' moment. It's not the classiest or most aesthetically pleasing of foods, but it is cheap, nutritious and highly comforting.
Serves 2 generously as a main, or 4-6 as part of a thali
200g yellow split peas
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons ghee
1 garlic clove, diced
500ml low salt stock (vegetable or chicken)
500ml hot water
teaspoon mustard seeds
teaspoon coriander seeds
2 teaspoons garam masala
1 medium hot red chilli, deseeded and diced
100g - or one bag - spinach, roughly shredded
100ml single cream (optional, but mighty tasty)
Rinse the lentils to remove any flour or grit. If possible, soak overnight, rinsing occasionally.
In a large heavy bottomed pan (one with a lid), melt 1 tbsp of the ghee and very gently fry the onion, chilli and garlic until soft.
Stir in the lentils and stock, and cover. Simmer slowly for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to stop the lentils sticking and burning. Continue until the liquid is absorbed. The lentils should begin to break down, becoming creamy and thick in consistency. If they still have a degree of hardness, continue to add water until they are cooked, and remove from the heat. They should remain a thick consistency - do not allow them to dry out or burn on the base, but be careful not to add so much water that they are soupy.
In a small frying pan, melt another tablespoon of ghee. Add the mustard and coriander seeds, and cook until they 'pop' - but be careful not to burn. Stir in the garam masala to toast slightly. Stir in the spices in to the daal, along with the spinach and cream - the spinach should wilt down and cook. Heat slightly - but do not boil - if necessary.
Ideal served with mini naan.