"I was three when the elephants ate the house next door," opens a paragraph on page 108 of my copy of Enough, the new book by Dr Cassandra Coburn. It encapsulates a lot of what I like about this book: it deals with important issues but it's also a lot of fun.
The central thesis of Enough is that we're destroying the Earth, but making some simple changes to how we eat can reverse a lot of that damage. The first statement won't be a surprise to anyone who has, for example, watched a recent David Attenborough documentary. The latter was a surprise to me. I knew that raising cattle took more land than, say, growing lentils, but I was surprised and shocked at how large the difference is, particularly when land usage for growing feed is accounted for. Then there is the difference in water usage, and, well, you should read Enough for all the details.
I particularly liked that Enough is very firmly grounded in research, and doesn't engage in speculation like many other popular "science" books. Everything in Enough is backed up by peer-reviewed publications, which are referenced in the detailed end notes, and Dr Cassandra Coburn is careful to indicate where evidence is inconclusive. The book also accepts nuance. For example, the discussion of palm oil is not the blanket condemnation you might expect. It's not just a dry recital of academic papers, though. As the opening quote indicates the facts are leavened with a healthy dose of anecdotes and interesting tidbits that keep Enough an engaging read.
Enough is also an eminently practical book, and this sets it apart from most others on the same area. It doesn't just tell you what's wrong, but gives you ways to fix it. The penultimate chapter of the book is dedicated to dietary suggestions, which are simple and clear. Since reading Enough I've made substantial changes to my diet, shifting much more towards unprocessed plant-based food. In that spirit I have a recipe for dahl below, which you might want to try. And while you're waiting for it to cook you might want to grab a copy of Enough of your own.
The basic idea of dahl is to cook lentils and then mix in a fried spice blend. Here's what I usually do:
Start with about 1.5 cups of pulses. There are many different varieties and they are all cheap and roughly equivalent in terms of nutrition. I like chana dahl as a base, with another variety (moong dahl and red lentils being my current choices) making up about one third of the mixture. Wash the pulses and put them in water to soak for three hours or more. (I've left them soaking for two days without issue.) Soaking makes the pulses quicker to cook and supposedly easy to digest.
Boil the soaked pulses in water. I like to start with about 2cm of water above the level of the pulses in the pot. Skim off the scum that forms on the surface, and once that has largely stopped add a teaspoon of tumeric.
Fry your spices. My standard mixture is something like:
Start by frying the whole spices in oil for a minute or so, then add the powders, garlic, and ginger and fry for another minute or so. At this point I usually also add some chopped tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft (about 5 minutes).
After about 30 minutes of boiling the lentils will be soft. Add the spice mixture and it's ready to eat!
Some variations I've tried:
Dahl is a pretty robust dish in my experience so don't be afraid to experiment.