I broke up with my girlfriend a few months ago, which has brought advantages and disadvantages. The fact that I no longer feel like the walking embodiment of bitter disappointment to a girl who spent eight years trying to fix me is kind of a plus. As is the fact that I never again have to see a whole host of her annoying friends. And no matter how hard I tried, I will always think that True Blood is terrible. Knowing that I’ll never see another episode fills me with a palpable sense of relief. The downsides though are myriad: she is a genuinely good person, and I am now essentially a rudderless eejit in the midst of a second adolescence / shame spiral which can only end with one or more people dead or in protective custody. And she was a good cook. We liked cooking together and planning meals. She was a vegetarian too, like me, and despite my best attempts, I find it really hard to be attracted to female carnivores. I miss that she hated when I made the traditional Irish dish, colcannon, because the smell of the steaming cabbage is frankly pretty rank, but it never stopped me cooking it.
So anyway, I’ve been pretty down in the dumps. The kind of slow grinding depression that makes itself comfortable in the pit of your stomach and just sits there now and again sending little charges of anxiety into your heart. At times like this, I find it hard to stomach food, which probably isn’t such a bad thing as I could definitely stand to lose a few stone. The problem is that I really like drinking, whiskey specifically, and to do that you need to put a little something on your stomach to soak up the medicine. This is a recipe that is really easy to make, and can be made with a bunch of ingredients that most people will have in their cupboards. I like to serve it with some simple basmati rice, a dollop or two of natural yoghurt and pitta bread warmed on the griddle to mop it all up. If you’re feeling swish, a nice handful of fresh coriander and some hard tangy goat’s cheese also compliment it well.
Sad Drinking Lentil Chilli
A decent sized mug full of green lentils
2 shallots finely sliced
3 birds eye chillies finely sliced
3 cloves of garlic
1 can plum tomatoes
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
Vegetable stock – 1 pint
Fry the shallot and chilli gently in some olive oil whilst rinsing the lentils thoroughly. Meanwhile, heat a separate pan until it’s really hot before throwing in the cumin and coriander seeds to toast. Make sure they don’t brown too much or they will be bitter. Grind them up in your mortar and pestle (it will smell amazing). When the shallot is nice and soft, add the lentils and the toasted spices. Let this all cook for a minute before adding the plum tomatoes and the stock. Throw in the garlic cloves whole, they will cook down in the stock to give a lovely mellow sweet flavour. Bang a lid on and allow the chilli to simmer on a high heat for five minutes or so. Then place it on a nice medium simmer for around twenty minutes depending on how dry you want the consistency to be. The green lentils are tough little blighters, so the longer you simmer them for the less bite they’ll have. I personally like them with a bit of bite, but if you prefer a softer consistency you can use the versatile red lentil instead. Adding a little drop of beer during the cooking is a good tip and gives the dish a really nice depth of flavour. Season with salt and black pepper. Finish with a squeeze of lemon to bring all the flavours back up. Then continue drinking and looking at your ex’s Facebook photos.
Michael Sterrett is a Leeds-based stand-up comedian. You can follow him on Twitter (@MJSterrett), and check out the HOWL website HERE.
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