Where to start… You are now probably wondering what on earth is antipakjes avond and I am thinking how on earth do I explain this.. 🙂 Karin Luiten, author of the cookbook on how to cook without mixes and packages (Koken zonder pakjes en zakjes) send a group of us a mail asking to participate this week in cooking without prepacked foods and mixes. Not sure how it is in your part of the world, but here convenience cooking seems to have grown dramatically over the last couple of years. Before we had maybe a few mixes, one for macaroni, one for spaghetti, one for mushroom sauce and a few others I can’t (and won’t remember).
These days there are tons of pre-mixes to choose from; you name a dish and there is a package with all the herbs, spices and sometimes even vegetables (in their dried form) in it. You have mixes for korma chicken, hokkien mie, mashed potatoes… well, you get the picture…
Apart from the fact that all those packages are expensive, what you should really question yourself is; what is in it? Have you ever read one of the ingredient labels on those boxes? You wouldn’t believe the amount of stuff they put in that should not be in our foods. Unpronounceable. And we eat it. Without complaining. Day in and day out. I have to confess that Tom and I, at one point in our lives, also pretty much cooked out of packs every night. We went into the supermarket, got ourselves a pre-cut mix of vegetables, a mix with spices and sauce and some meat and we were good to go. Now that we cook a lot more, we use less packages every day. In fact; we don’t really like the taste of them anymore.
Most of them are too salty and make the food all taste the same basically. A couple of months ago we tried one of our favorites from years back; It’s called Hokkien Mie and it is a box which has a package for sauce, a package for spices and a package of noodles. O and a package with some cashews in it. So the only thing you need to buy is chicken and a package of Asian greens, pre-cut and ready to throw in the pan. Mix it all together and you have a meal.
What can I say; we totally hated it. We didn’t even finish our plates and we looked at eachother. How did we even like stuff like that before??
So this week is all about cooking from scratch and cooking with fresh ingredients, wherever possible. I was planning on doing one dish every day but not sure if I am able to make that happen but I’ll give it a try.
This dish also fits perfectly into the living leaner challenge from my dear friend Mona. (she has some pretty cool recipes under 10 euro’s on her site too) We have been pretty much staying under the 10 euro every day but I just didn’t write it down or take photos everyday. We’ve had a few splurges too… That usually happens in the weekend, I have to confess.
It’s a vegetarian dish so that always wins in terms of cost control. The total cost for this dish for 4 people (we cook it for two days) is roughly € 7,=. And it’s so ‘much’ because I had to buy a whole package of lentils, so those will last me a lot longer. I had cumin seeds, chilli flakes, onion and stock in the cupboard.
I’m eating this tonight with the Donna Hay Challenge recipe for next month… So I’m not gonna spoil the surprise and tell you what that is, but I did want to make sure I tested the recipe this time. No more recipe disasters! Technically; the lentils were in a pack for I sort of guessed that was not the issue.. 😉
Red lentil soup
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- large pinch of chilli flakes
- 1 tbsp of olive oil
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 140 gr split red lentils
- 850 m vegetable stock or water
- 400 gr can tomatoes, whole or chopped
- 200 gr chickpeas, rinsed and drained
- small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
- 4 tbsp of Greek yogurt to serve
- Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes for 1 min, or until they start to jump around the pan and release their aromas. Add the oil and onion, and cook for 5 mins. Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have softened.
- Whizz the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor until it is a rough purée, pour back into the pan and add the chickpeas. Heat gently, season well and stir in the coriander. Finish with a dollop of yogurt and coriander leaves.
Recipe by BBC Good Food
O and in case you were wondering what all the fuss is with the anti-package evening and why specifically this week? We celebrate Sinterklaas and every year on December 5th it is officially Pakjesavond. The evening that all the kids receive loads of presents from Sinterklaas. It’s a bit like Santa but then different… In any case; the anti-pakjes avond is ofcourse a fun reminder of Sinterklaas this week. Are you still with me or have I lost you completely now? If you want to know more about Sinterklaas I suggest you take a look here or here.