I recently started a Saturday afternoon picnic potluck thing with other Swatties in London. Last weekend we trekked out to Parliament Hill in Hampstead Heath when it was blissfully warm and we each made a course. The same amount of good food you’d get at a restaurant, both its more fulfilling because we’ve made it ourselves and its much cheaper. And fresh.

This weekend, we anticipated a cold, rainy day so we moved the potluck indoors and combined Swatties with my hall mates. We each brought such different courses to the table. May made a wonderful french fruity salad with apples, grapes, pistachios, mozzarella and a homemade dressing. Melinda made green onion pancakes that were crispy and flaky like parata. I made a moong dhal soup with aubergine and potatoes, completed with garlic bread. Tina made rhubarb crumble. Rob made British sausages. Frankie and Rhodri made small cakes with icing and gave us custard to go along with the crumble. And Rhodri made a delicious Pims cocktail with raspberries, orange slices, mint and coconut. I hope your mouth is watering because it was an intense feast. Unfortunately I don’t have any pictures from yesterday, but Anna took one of all of us last week.

I kept repeating to Frankie, “We’re having a potluck picnic on Saturday,” thinking that I was not enunciating clearly when actually she didn’t know the word potluck. Rob thought I was conniving, “Ramya, it’s smart that you bring your friends over to cook for you. Usually we cook for our guests,” or something to that extent. Very much missing the point of potluck. But I think they secretly understood by the end of it.

But damn it, the weather is so fickle! I changed my Sunday morning plans today because the rain was pounding the pavement, and then it became sunny and happy, and now its windy and cloudy again.

At any rate, I’m nearly broke so I look forward to more occasions where people cook for me. Cheers.

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Recipe for dhal soup:

I decided to make the dhal a soup with garlic bread on the side instead of a proper curry, but it ended up meeting me half-way. It ended up being like a lentin curry, really. Saute the garlic and onion, as usual, with gharam masala/saffron mix (cumin would prolly be good as well) and paprika, and then aubergine and whatever other vegetables, add a can of chopped tomatoes. Boil the lentils at the same time and then pour the sauted items into the lentils. It might be better to use real tomatoes instead of canned chopped ones because I dont think the juice from the tomatoes and the water from the dhal mix that well.

Because I wanted the soup to thicken, I boiled some potatoes and added it. I’m guessing you can just pop in carrots and celery as well. And courgettes. Most importantly, cover the pot with a lid and let the sauce thicken and the flavor spread. Make sure to add salt; I’m always in danger of forgetting this last bit.

I think the way my mom used to make it was leave the cooked lentils seperate from the sauce/curry, so the flavoring is up to the tastes of the individual. She was always badgering me to make mine more lentil-heavy because it’s high in protein – meh.

Melinda found the soup a bit spicy with my extra paprika. In such cases, add plain youghurt or drink some lassi or mango juice.

Although the dhal might seem too heavy for spring time, London’s spring is very chilly. I’ve been wearing sweatshirts all the time and constantly drinking tea – my two duvets are much needed. Don’t let the picture of last sunny Saturday decieve you – London’s a fickle mistress of weather.

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