I’m in recovery this week. Recovery from last week’s bout of tonsillitis, recovery from various related ailments (hi there, blood test bruising), and recovery from an epic weekend of MURDER. That’s right: last weekend three carloads of my friends road-tripped down to the Southern Highlands to stay in a farmhouse (nay, The Farmhouse), sample some delicious local wines and participate in a murder mystery party.
It was ridiculous fun. Everyone went all-out with costuming and some of us even went all-out staying in character. I was supposed to be a gossipy French woman married to one of the heir’s to a dukedom – the previous Duke being the murder victim. Turns out, I was also a gold-digging call-girl who unsuccessfully attempted murder with a bowl of poisoned strawberries. (My poisoning skills are about as good as my French accent.)
Dinner was pretty amazing: three kinds of meat provided by the murder host, seemingly endless bottles of Southern Highlands red, and a whole heap of vegetables prepared by me. Unfortunately I’m not here to share my murder veggies with you (I didn’t really get the chance to photograph them). Instead I’m sharing my recovery food, and surprise, surprise if it isn’t our old friend soup.
This is the kind of recovery soup that isn’t just about comfort. Not your oh-so-soothing chicken or savoury lentil concoction that you consume at the start of a malady. Nay. This one has a little kick to let you know that, yeah, you’re still a delicate flower, but you also deserve a bit of excitement once in a while.
I call it “Spanish” because I took inspiration from a vegetarian tapas recipe, but really it’s not of any particular origin. It uses chana dal, which are split chickpeas often used in indian food. These are smaller (obviously) than full chickpeas, so quicker to cook. Also, they are hella delicious. Fortuitously this dish goes down way-too-smooth with a glass of Joadja Cabernet Sangiovese, which Patrick happened to pick up half a case of on our murderous weekend away. The warm berry and chocolate flavours of the wine taste even better with the soft spice of the cumin seeds and the slightly sour tomato and lemon. In lieu of the roaring fire and fur coats that kept us warm all Murder Weekend long, this combination is a pretty appealing way to keep winter at bay.
1 cup chana dal (or yellow split peas if you can’t find them, I guess)
2 cups grated pumpkin
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 can tomato puree
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper
Soak chana daal for 4-6 hours. Discard excess water and rinse. Dice onions and sauté on medium to low heat. While those cook dice garlic and grate pumpkin. Add pumpkin, spices and garlic and heat until pumpkin starts turning to mush. Add tomato puree, then fill puree can up with water. Add 4-6 cans of water to pan and let simmer until chickpeas are tender – about half an hour. Add salt and pepper and juice of half a lemon (or to taste). Can be served plain, with a drizzle of olive oil, a handful of cheddar or some other delicious topping. Yoghurt or goat’s cheese, perhaps? Maybe you’re neither vegetarian nor lazy and you want some chorizo with that? Good idea.