Baby, It’s Cold Inside

Since we arrived back in Ireland at the end of the summer, everyone has been going on and on about energy prices, brace yourself, it’s going to be a hard winter, etc etc.  I mean really, how bad was it going to be?  (Also, what price a warm house?  Because this country is COLD.)

So imagine my humble-pie eating when my two-month energy bill arrived today – a hair under E800.  JESUS CHRIST, as I shouted on my family What’s App.  Apparently if I insist on leaving the heating on 24/7 (I mean, I don’t, but close enough) and demand hot water, on tap (as it were) that’s what happens.  One sister even remarked that it was actually quite cheap, considering. (Considering, I assume, that I like to be warm.) Well, I’m not warm any more.  The heating has been turned off – at 10am! Practically the middle of the night! – and I am wearing a hoodie – hood up – and slippers, and am eying up a pair of fur-lined gloves (the only reason I’m not wearing them is because the dog has taken to carrying one around in her mouth all the time, and it’s quite gooey as a result.) I am COLD, and I don’t like being cold.  But, I also don’t like being poor, so I have to choose.  Cold is winning. For the moment.

The accounts man in a clothes shop (he popped up out of the basement when he heard I was a recent returnee, just his round head sticking out of a trapdoor giving me shopping advice; I felt like I was talking to a turtle) recommended lots of layers to me, and told me not to scrimp when I was buying a rain coat. Apparently you’ll never regret a good raincoat, and “of course you’ll use it every day for almost the whole year”.  Jesus Christ, am I going to get rained on EVERY DAY for the rest of my Irish life? Will I never be warm again?

In other news the children have finally all gone back to school.  This should have happened last week, but of course one of them was sick, so the celebrations had to wait a day.  It was touch and go there for a while this morning, but nothing a strepsil and some neurofen couldn’t sort out.   And so I have an empty house.  Apart from the dog, and my husband.  And my cleaner.  And the plumber. 

I might have to get us all into a small room, close the doors and generate some heat.

Speaking of which, I am obsessed with dhal at the moment.  Possibly because it’s cheap and easy and delicious. AND you can add a shed-load of chilli to warm you from the inside out.  There’s no real recipe, just some integral ingredients (including, obv, lentils.)

I like to make it with carrots, sweet potatoes and spinach, but really all you actually need are the spices, lentils, and some stock.  Adding coconut milk and lime, if you have it, and fresh coriander, if you like it, will make you sob with the joy of a belly deliciously filled. (No worries if you don’t have it, you’ll just mildly weep with joy instead.)

Delicious (Delightful? Delectable? Dead Cheap?) Dhal.

Add a glug of oil (plain canola / sunflower) to a deep pan and add finely chopped carrots if using, stirring occasionally until they’re nearly soft.  To this add (or otherwise jump straight to frying) a couple of cloves of finely chopped garlic and some finely chopped ginger (a piece about as big as your thumb). Once it starts to sizzle add a tablespoon each of ground cumin and ground coriander. This is where you add your chilli – fresh, finely chopped, or dried – if using.  Stir like mad.  If you’re using sweet potato (peeled and diced in small pieces), also add it now. Once everything is covered in spices and oil, add half a pack (so, about 250g in total) of dried red lentils.  Stir again, then add 500ml of vegetable stock.  Stir stir stir, leave to bubble, then cover and reduce the heat.  Check it after about 15 mins – you might need to add more stock (I usually make about 750ml and often use all of this, it depends on how much carrots and / or sweet potato you have) – and stir to stop it sticking to the pan. The lentils will take about 25 mins to turn to mush, which is the consistency you want – think pureed baby food.  Once it’s all soft and delicious, either eat as is, or add all / any of the following:

  • Half a tin of coconut milk
  • A couple of handfuls of fresh spinach (or a few cubes of frozen instead))
  • Juice of a lime / half a lemon
  • A handful of chopped coriander.

Serve with rice, bread, naan, whatever. (Natural Yoghurt will make it SING.)

Guaranteed to warm you up.  Not as much as having your heating on 24 hours a day will, granted, but near enough.  And MUCH cheaper.


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