We’ve just returned home to Dunedin from an incredibly inspiring three month adventure in Europe, gratefully avoiding the bitter winter in New Zealand.  Apart from a few blustery days in Norway and England, we were basking in the warm European summer the entire time. Now that we’re home I’m acclimatising, as even though it’s officially spring, the warm weather doesn’t usually kick in until later in the summer – occasionally not until autumn. What I’ve been craving upon returning is a warming dahl to heat me from the inside out and provide a rejuvenating boost of nutrients which my body demands after living the good life in Europe.

I’m a big fan of beetroot and its incredible health benefits and antioxidant properties, which you can read about in my recipe for Beetroot, Feta and Mint Salad with Orange and Tahini Dressing. Another super food wunderkind is pumpkin, a highly nutritious vegetable that lends itself perfectly to a hearty dahl. Pumpkin is a low-calorie staple which is both filling and high in dietary fibre, which assists in lowering bad LDL cholesterol levels. Pumpkin’s bright orange colour is from its high concentration of carotenoids, which repel free radicals in the body and help prevent cardiovascular disease and other infections. Pumpkin is a good source of vitamin A and vitamin C, both of which boost the immune system, perfect for the inconsistent weather. It’s also a natural diuretic, which flushes out toxins and waste material from the body, leaving you spring-cleaned and detoxified.

This recipe was created completely by chance as I had to use up some of the tired looking veggies I’d all but abandoned at the bottom of the fridge. The beetroot gives the traditional pumpkin dahl recipe a beautiful depth of flavour and the ruby red colour is pure delight. The avocado also adds a rich creaminess which satisfies on a cosy night in. Thankfully beetroot and pumpkin are still in season, so make the most of it while it lasts. Serve the dahl with brown rice, quinoa or with soldiers (fingers of toast) drizzled with olive oil.

Beetroot and Pumpkin Dahl with Smashed Avocado and Coriander

1 1/2 cups of brown lentils, rinsed well

A large onion

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

Olive oil, plus extra for the smashed avocado

A large knob of ginger (3 cm), finely grated

2 teaspoons of cumin seeds

2 teaspoons of coriander seeds

2 teaspoons of mustard seeds

A teaspoon of tumeric, ground

A teaspoon of cinnamon

700 grams of pumpkin, chopped into small pieces

3 large beetroot, thoroughly washed and chopped into small pieces

6 cups of water (1.5 litres)

2 organic vegetarian bouillon cubes

Himalayan rock salt and ground white pepper to taste

A large avocado

A bunch of coriander (cilantro), rustically chopped

In a saucepan, cook the lentils in water until tender. In another large saucepan, heat the olive oil to a medium temperature. Add the diced onion and cook until translucent. Add the crushed garlic and cook for another minute. Lightly ground the spices in a mortar and pestle and add to the saucepan and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Add the pumpkin and beetroot and sauté for a minute or so. Add the water, bouillon cubes, salt and pepper and stir well. Bring to the boil and allow to simmer for about 40-50 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked and the flavors have developed. Puree with a stick blender, then add the lentils and cook for a further 5 minutes.

In a mortar and pestle or bowl, smash the avocado flesh, olive oil and coriander until a smooth consistency is reached. Arrange a good portion of dahl in a bowl with the chosen accompaniment. Place a spoonful of the smashed avocado with coriander on top of the dahl and garnish with more chopped coriander. Enjoy the warmth whilst dreaming of the forthcoming summer sun.

Serves a hungry crowd

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