Archive | August, 2012

Lentil Curry – Dhal

25 Aug

Tonight I cooked a sort of Indian Dhal, I was in the mood for lentils for a while now, and I hadn’t eaten curry in a while so I was in the mood for that.. I might have also gotten in the mood for curry because I’ve been watching too many episodes of (Junior) Masterchef Australia and there have been various curries that passed my screen. As it has finally cooled down a bit I figured I should actually cook something today, and that something could eve be spicy. I googled for lentil curries and found a couple of recipes that seemed delicious but I ended up making this rather simple one I found on Allrecipes because I actually had all of the ingredients at home. I did want to add some spinach but I forgot that while cooking but it was really good all the same. Definitely making it again but I’ll add some more chili to make it spicier and I’ll try it with spinach to make it a bit more varied. All in all though this is a quick (not counting cooking the lentils, or using canned lentils) and easy recipe and it has a delicious mixture of flavors. It might not look pretty but it’s definitely tasty!

Ingredients for four servings

200 g red lentils
1 large onion, diced
8 ml vegetable oil
15 g curry paste
3 g curry powder
1 g curcuma
1 g cumin
1 g chili powder
3 g salt
2 g white sugar
1 g minced garlic
1 g ginger root, minced
200 g tomato puree

Prepare the lentils (soak them, cook them or don’t do anything if you used canned ones). In the meantime saute your onions until they’re brown. Mix all the spices with the curry paste and sugar and salt in a bowl (depending on how spicy you want it, use more or less curry pasta or chili; I personally think I will add some cilantro powder as well next time as some more chili or curry pasta to make it even spicier). Add that mixture to the onions and stir fry for about 1 or 2 minutes. Start adding the tomato puree by stirring it in. Once everything is done, mix everything with the lentils and serve.

I didn’t have fresh ginger root, so I just used ginger powder and I added a bit more sugar because my curry paste is pretty salty, I recommend going by taste adding the spices but obviously don’t overdo it on one or that will take the upper hand, be careful that the proportions are right. I also added some soy cooking cream to make the tomato puree a bit more creamier but that’s not necessary. I can really see this dish with coconut milk as well so I’ll probably be trying that next time!

You can serve it with bread, if you want to keep it completely Indian serve with Naan or Papadum for example, or serve with rice.


Vegetable Couscous with Yoghurt

16 Aug

I meant to share this one a while ago already when I made it but it kept slipping my mind so here we go! Obviously this is another vegetarian dish and I made it as a main dish but you can also use it on the side of whatever else you’ll be having! I felt like eating couscous again some weeks ago and as I always love to try new things I found this recipe online and I loved it. Because of the chickpeas it really works as a main dish as well, a simple but delicious main dish.


Chickpeas (drained)
Olive oil
Vegetable broth
Ground cumin (I used the whole seeds because I only had those and worked as well)
Ground cilantro (it really depends how you like your cilantro, if you love it you could might as well add some fresh leaves)
Harissa (spicy Arabian paste)
(Soy) Yoghurt
Mint (I left this out because I don’t like it)

Clean the carrots, zucchini and scallions. Make thin slices of the carrots and zucchini (or dice the zucchini, they’re done quicker than the carrots anyway). Cut the white and green parts of the scallions separately. Drain and rinse (if needed) the chickpeas. Heat the oil in a large enough pan and saute the carrots, zucchini and white parts of the scallions. Once they’re almost done, add the chickpeas and saute it all for another 2 minutes or so. Add the broth, cumin, cilantro and harissa and bring to boil. Stir in the couscous (so obviously you’d need as much broth for the couscous to get done). Take the pan of the heat source and let it sit for 5 to 7 minutes, basically until your couscous is done, which obviously depends on the kind you have so check your package! In the meantime mix the yoghurt with some oil and salt. Clean your mint leaves, chop them and add them to the yoghurt. Add the green parts of the scallions to the couscous once it’s done and serve together with the yoghurt. As I don’t like mint in my yoghurt myself, I added some of the scallions to mine but that’s all about taste.


Coconut Rice with Black Eyed Peas

15 Aug

Ever since I became a vegetarian in May, I’ve been trying out new recipes, being more attentive about what to eat and all that so beans, lentils and such are on the menu quite often. I finally found black eyed beans which I wanted to try and looking around online I found this recipe on Allrecipes. The original one asks for bacon but I obviously ignored that part. It’s a very simple dish with not many flavors but it kinda works and it’s awesome because you all make it in pan and it’s quick and easy.


(Olive) oil
(Bell) pepper
Rice (any kind you like)
Coconut milk
Black eyed beans (you can obviously also use other beans if you prefer)
Fresh thyme
Salt & pepper to taste
Tabasco sauce

Chop the onion, pepper, chili and garlic and saute them in the heated oil. Once done you add the rice, water (I already cooked it in the water boiler and then added it) and coconut milk and let it boil before you reduce the heat. Add some salt as well. Add the drained beans and thyme (the recipe used the whole twigs and then removed those but I love thyme so I put the little leaves in and left them). Cover and let it simmer. In the meantime chop your tomatoes, add them and let it all simmer some more. Check now and then how the rice is coming along so you know when it’s done. Probably about 20 to 25 minutes in total I’d say, so about 10 after you add the beans and another ten after you add the tomatoes. I tasted it with some more salt and pepper and added some dried chili flakes and garlic. Serve with Tabasco sauce.

Review of Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone

11 Aug

Thanks to Netgalley, Penguin Group USA and Viking USA for an arc to review!

I set out reading Swimming to Elba by Silvia Avallone expecting a completely different book than it turned out to be. What I expected was a light summer read set in Italy. Well, it was set in Italy and parts of the book take place in Italy but it’s far from what I expected.

Swimming to Elba deals with two girls, Anna and Francesca, who are best friends and live in the industrial town Piombino. They’re 13 years old and it’s the summer before they start high school. The girls look like complete opposites, Anna with dark curls and Francesca with straight blond hair, but they live their lives as if they are one and have done so ever since they were little kids. This will change once the start high school because Anna is the smart one of the two and she’ll attend a different high school than Francesca. However the girls are convinced they will remain best friends and are set on enjoying their last summer before venturing into this new life. It is this summer they have discovered the impact they and their bodies have on others so they start using their looks and newly discovered sexuality to tease boys and men around their town. Both their families are far from perfect, Francesca’s father Enrico beats his wife Rosa regularly, and does the same thing to Francesca especially because he doesn’t like his daughter showing of her body and getting involved with boys. Anna’s father works at the local steel factory but when he gets fired he starts to get involved in criminal activities and disappears from their family several times. The girls find support in each other and their friendship and always dream of getting away from their town, one of their dreams to get away is to swim to Elba, the luxurious island glistening in the sun, which they can see from their side of the beach. They also dream about getting older and finally being able to take part in the enticing adult and night life of their town, which includes parties, drugs and being able to get around on a Vespa when they turn 14.

Things take a turn for the worse however when Francesca realizes that she is in love with Anna, when she confesses her feelings, the first wedge in their friendship is created and soon after they fall out of touch completely when Anna falls in love with her brother’s friend Mattia, who is much older than she is. Both girls keep thinking about each other of and on though and both girls keep dreaming of escaping the worker’s apartments in Via Stalingrado and Piombino. Anna and Francesca soon start growing up way too fast, experiencing things they are not ready for yet. Anna by getting involved with Mattia and engaging in a sexual relationship and Francesca eventually by having to drop out of school and help out at home and by trying to follow her dreams of becoming famous and getting away, which has her ending up working in the sex industry.

Besides Anna and Francesca we also get the bleak stories of their parents, Anna’s brother Alessio and their friends and other people living in Piombino. Nobody seems to be really happy and everybody has to deal with their own problems.

The novel is written in a marvelous style, Avallone really transports you to the locations the novel takes place in with a lot of detail, while reading you can imagine every place in your head as watching a movie and in my opinion, if an author can do that in a way it doesn’t get repetitive or feel forced, they really know their craft. Even if you have never been to Italy and don’t know a single thing about the country, you will love the style of writing because it takes you to that wonderful country. If you know the country very well, you’ll be fascinated by all the things you recognize while reading; and if you only know the more glamorous parts of Italy, it will be quite a change to see this other part of the country.

I really liked the juxtaposing of Elba, the paradise where everything seems to be better to the girls from Via Stalingrado, and Piombino with its industrial bleakness. Elba is a symbol for all the dreams the girls, and probably other people in Piombino have, a whole other world, only a ferry ride away yet still so far away.

Swimming to Elba definitely leaves you with an uncomfortable feeling at certain points and while it only gets worse in that sense towards the end, the ending of the novel itself gives a bit of hope, hope that maybe it is possible to escape the life most people seem to be living in Piombino, maybe it is possible to make something of yourself and just maybe these girls will end up doing just that, maybe they’ll even do that because they experienced so many things in that one year, and grew up so fast.

To come back to the first sentence of my review, I’m glad that this novel was not what I expected it to be, I’m glad it was not just a summer read because while not an uplifting holiday read that you can read without really thinking, and while being a book that can make you uncomfortable at times, this is a novel you shouldn’t miss out on. It’s an outstanding coming of age story of two girls that are unsympathetic at times yet at other times you feel immensely sad for them and what they are going through. Moreover, the prose is simply astounding and I’ll be looking forward to reading more by Silvia Avallone.

Don’t Explain

2 Aug

A couple of weeks ago I went to see Beth Hart in concert. I had known her ever since LA Song but I never really listened to more of her music. Last year she played a venue close to me but I was sick and decided to not go after all. If I had only known how good she is live last year, I would have gone, cold or not! When I found out she’d be playing close to me again this year, I decided I should finally go. Before the concert I familiarized myself with her other music besides LA Song and I already fell in love with her voice and its powerful sound, while LA Song is still my favorite song by her, there are so many more good songs, she brings something special to everything she does.

The venue she played at was really neat, it’s an old castle and they have a small stage in front of it. Unfortunately there are only seats but we were lucky to get seats in the second row on the left and because the venue is so small they were awesome seats considering that we arrived quite late. The setting of the stage was quite simple, just some instruments, the carpet Beth always has on stage and a simple curtain with her logo. I absolutely appreciate simple settings like this for concerts because it’s the music I go for and not some big show.

The concert was absolutely wonderful, Beth’s voice is amazingly strong and able to transmit any emotion she felt while writing a particular song. The set list varied from old songs and new songs, ballads to hard pieces and she seems to have so much fun on stage. She has an insane amount of energy, moves around a lot and moves her whole body to the sounds of the instruments. I had read beforehand that she is sort of our generation’s Janis Joplin and as cliche as it might sound, you can really see and feel it. The way she uses her body and the music does really remind of Janis, and so does her voice.

Before Beth Hart, only Gianna Nannini has managed to move me to tears during a concert, but Beth managed to do the same thing during LA Song which tells a lot about how powerful her music and voice can be.

I definitely recommend going to see her if you’re into blues, jazz, rock done by an amazing singer-songwriter with one of the most powerful voices of our time. I bought my ticket for November when she’s playing in my area already and luckily at this venue there won’t be any seats.

Photo A Day July

1 Aug

And the list:

Review of UR by Stephen King

1 Aug

URUR by Stephen King
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I liked the premise of this novella but I didn’t like the execution of it all too much. There are some interesting ideas raised but they are not dealt with extensively which is too bad but understandable because it’s a short novella.

The characters were all flat and definitely didn’t click with me and the style of writing was in no way appealing to me unfortunately.

View all my reviews