So a year ago today I embarked on a month-long trip to Kathmandu, Nepal to go and teach English in a monastery where young boys went to live if they had been orphaned or their parents couldn’t afford to look after them any more. The trip was with an organisation called Frontier; I went by myself, but I met some amazing people there, and it was honestly one of the most incredible, frightening and unique experiences of my life, of which almost everything was out of my comfort zone – but I would be a completely different person had I chosen to stay at home or join my friends on their holiday to Malia. So basically, this post is all about looking back on my time in Nepal, and me attempting to re-create some of the food I ate there (Lentil Dahl and Breakfast Wheat Bread Rolls).
My time in Nepal was a complete whirlwind of awe-inspiring surroundings, beautifully decorated temples, unfortunate weather (I went during monsoon season), climbing, walking, enormous bugs, monkeys, food poisoning and wandering round immense markets trying to pick out gifts for my friends and family. But what I remember most is probably the food, as probably the events that stand out most from the trip – apart from our Everest sighting – were centred around food in some way. The staple meal I can remember is Lentil Dahl, which was a lentil curry/soup which was served with rice and spicy vegetables; this stands out for me because it was the meal I most looked forward to during the day – I didn’t eat breakfast whilst I was there until the last week, we had Lentil Dahl for lunch, and then a spicy noodle soup just before bed. This was done in a pressure cooker because the altitude there is so high that water doesn’t boil properly, which to me is totally awesome, as well as being an inconvenience – so I’ve cooked it differently, but have tried to keep it as close as possible to the original.
50g red lentils
225ml vegetable stock
Half of a small onion, finely chopped
One large tomato, chopped
Quarter of a teaspoon of turmeric
Half a teaspoon of garam masala
Half a red chilli, finely chopped
One small sweet potato, diced
One handful of baby spinach, shredded
Rice or naan bread to serve
- Put all the ingredients except the sweet potato, spinach and naans in a pan, bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.
- Add the sweet potato and cook until tender, another 10-12 minutes. Stir in the spinach and cook for a minute until wilted. Serve with rice or naan.
The other recipe I’m making a wholemeal roll that we would be offered for breakfast, along with ‘butter tea’, which tasted a little like stock cubes. I usually rejected breakfast on the grounds that I wasn’t hungry at that time (we woke up at 6am every day) and lunch was at 12pm, but on the last week I gave them a go, and they were really nice – I definitely found that my teaching ability increased dramatically after eating! I used my Jo Wheatley book for this one, as I’ve never made bread before and didn’t want to make any errors, so this is sunflower seed bread, that makes 12 rolls.
Wholemeal Breakfast Rolls
170g of strong white flour, plus extra for kneading
170g of strong wholemeal flour
7g of easy-blend/fast action yeast (it comes in 7g sachets at Tesco)
One teaspoon of salt
275ml of buttermilk
One tablespoon of clear honey
50ml of sunflower oil
100g of sunflower seeds
One tablespoon of full-fat milk to glaze
- Tip both of the flours into a large mixing bowl, add the yeast and salt, mix to combine and make a well in the centre.
- Warm the buttermilk in a small pan until lukewarm, then add the honey and sunflower oil and mix to combine. Pour into the well in the dry ingredients and mix to a soft dough. Knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes.
- Once the dough is smooth and elastic, add 75g of the sunflower seeds and knead again until thoroughly combined. Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large mixing bowl; cover with cling film and leave in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in size.
- Turn out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead again for 1 minute to knock back. Divide into 12 even pieces and shape into neat balls on a baking tray. Cover with oiled cling film and leave for another hour until well risen and springy.
- Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Gently brush the rolls with milk, sprinkle with the remaining sunflower seeds and bake on the middle shelf of the preheated oven for 15–20 minutes until golden brown and well risen. Remove from tins and cool on wire racks.
In all, Nepal was an insane trip – full of complete ups and downs; I wouldn’t trade it in for the world, and I definitely feel like it’s completely changed who I am as a person – I’m much more thoughtful, grateful and brave. I also recognise that the fact that I was out there completely independently, with not much control over my environment was the final push that triggered my anorexia; before the trip, my mum had undergone a massive surgery (my Dad donated one of his kidneys to save her life, how romantic :p), I had completed four A levels with good grades and had struggled to secure my place at university – I went to Asia after an incredibly stressful period in my life, and as soon as I returned, I found out that my parents had split up. I lost over half a stone whilst travelling, and it seemed as if the only way to deal with all of these raging emotions was to lose more. It only took about 3 months for the disorder to have spiralled out of control – I lost my freedom, happiness, and even my fertility.
Looking back over some of the photos of Nepal, I realised how at peace I was there, and how I’m so desperate to be at that place again. It may take years, but I’m finally starting to accept myself again, as someone imperfect but doing her best. I’m determined not to let Anorexia beat me, and if you’re struggling, know I’m always here to help or talk.