Tarka dal with curly kale

Over the past few years I’ve been making a concerted effort to reduce the amount of meat my family and I eat. While I could never contemplate being vegetarian, it’s very important to me that I don’t bring up my children to consider meat as a basic, ‘everyday’ kind of ingredient, but much rather a luxury ‘treat’ food. This is for a variety of reasons: to avoid unnecessary cruelty to animals through intensive farming methods; to reduce our impact on our environment; and to improve our overall health.

It hasn’t always been easy. At first it was my husband who showed the most resistance – his attitude was that a meal wasn’t a proper meal unless there was a meat component. Then there were complaints from the children when I refused to take them to McDonald’s for a Happy Meal. “It’s not fair,” they’d whine. “Our friends at school get to go with their parents!”

But recently I think we may have turned a corner with both our girls. Our oldest,who started secondary school in September, has started talking about wanting to be pescatarian – inspired by her new (vegetarian) school friends – and is keen to learn to cook her own meals. And our youngest, now eight, who has always been a somewhat stubborn carnivore, actually asked for a second helping of tarka dal. Yes, you read that right. My daughter asked for more lentils. Lentils! Admittedly, she asked for “more of that meaty thing” but once I explained all the dishes on the table were vegetarian it then became clear that by ‘meaty’ she meant ‘tasty’.

My work here, people, is done.


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A taste of India on The Spice Trail

A Taste of India

One of the countries at the top of my bucket list has to be India. As a lover of spice, it’s really quite poor show I haven’t yet made it there, unless you count a very brief stop in Bombay (or rather Mumbai) as a child en route to Malaysia. Which you can’t.

But this month on The Spice Trail, I’m hoping my fellow food bloggers will bring a taste of India to me in the form of recipes inspired by this diverse culinary nation. Indian cuisine is not all about curry and chillies; just like the country itself, its food is incredibly varied. It’s a vast country, with a population second only to China, where food traditions vary enormously from one region to another. I can’t claim to be an expert and so I very much look forward to discovering new dishes and learning lessons from the blogging community.

Whether your dish is an example of authentic Indian cookery or a fusion of Indian techniques and ingredients with other world cuisines, so long as your recipe features at least one spice and takes some Indian inspiration, then you are invited to link up to this month’s challenge.

selection of natco products

Win a hamper of Natco ingredients

The winner of September’s Spice Trail challenge will receive a fantastic hamper of goodies from Natco, packed full of ingredients to set your creative juices flowing in the kitchen, from flavoured nuts and spiced teas to packs of spices and lentils.

Natco Foods was established in the UK in 1961 to serve the increasing demand for ingredients needed to cook south Asian cuisine. Now, Natco sources lentils, grains, spices, nuts, seeds and chutneys from all over the world and brings them to its award-winning processing hub in the heart of the English countryside. There, the raw materials are graded, cleaned, milled and blended to produce the highest quality products. Natco’s quest is to bring delicious freshness, startling colours, fragrant and pungent aromas and irresistible flavours to the heart and soul of every kitchen, helping you embrace nature and wellbeing to your inner self.

You can find Natco products in major supermarkets as well as independent retailers throughout the UK, or visit the online shop at www.natco-online.com.

How to enter The Spice Trail

spice trail badge square

  • Display the The Spice Trail badge (above and also available here) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  • Up to three recipe links accepted per blogger, so long as each one is inspired by Indian cuisine and features at least one spice.
  • Feel free to link up recipe posts from your archive, but please add the information about this challenge to the post and The Spice Trail badge.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Tuesday 30 September 2014.
  • If you tweet your post, please mention #TheSpiceTrail and me @BangerMashChat in your tweet and I’ll retweet each one I see.
  • As entries come in, links to these will be added to the bottom of this page.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe and the winner this month will receive a Natco hamper.
  • The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries.
  • Entries from bloggers all around the world are accepted, but unfortunately the prize can only be shipped to a UK address.
  • All entries will be added to The Spice Trail Pinterest Board.

September’s entries

  1. Eggless Kesar Milk Masala Custard & Sooji Halwa (Sheera) Dessert from CHINSKITCHEN
  2. Kulfi from Cakes from Kim
  3. Saag Paneer from Eat Like You Love Yourself
  4. Curried Cream of Cauliflower Soup from Brittany Jackson
  5. Channa Saag-ish from I’ll Cook, You Wash
  6. Paneer Tikka from Eat Like You Love Yourself
  7. Tandoori Chicken with Coronation Macaroni from Chef Mel’s Kitchen
  8. Vegan Slow Cooker Red Lentil Dhal from Mess Makes Food
  9. Puttu with Kadala Curry from Subha’s Dairy Free Treats
  10. Chicken Tikka Kebabs with Spiced Vegetables from Bangers & Mash
  11. Gujarati Thali from Home Cook Food
  12. Spicy Stuffed Baby Eggplants from Home Cook Food
  13. Dal Bukhara from Home Cook Food
  14. Quinoa Carrot ‘Meatballs’ in Tamarind Sauce from Allotment 2 Kitchen
  15. Vegan Marrow Curry with Tricolour Couscous from Allotment 2 Kitchen
  16. Raitas from Bangers & Mash
  17. Marinated Paneer Salad from Searching for Spice