Food? Culture? Community? YES PLEASE!

Post by Amy Middleton.

When I meet someone who is passionate about art and food, I know I am onto a good thing. Add calm confidence and an ethical conscience and I have to write about them!

Daniel Rigos is both an artist in the Hills, and the head Chef at Lentil as Anything at Abbotsford Convent. Lentil as Anything is a unique not for profit community organisation where customers are encouraged to ‘pay as they feel’ for the food they eat. Customers give what they feel the food is worth and have the opportunity to contribute towards a world where respect, generosity, trust, equality, freedom and kindness rule. (Preach it!) As well as creating amazing food, Lentil is involved in a number of community projects that bring food, community and culture together. Whilst Lentil welcomes donations and relies on their volunteers to maintain a sustainable model, it is also a very well run business that attracts great chef’s and produces an incredible fusion of Indian, Asian and middle Eastern food.

Daniel joined the Lentil team three years ago after traveling the world. He arrived back in Melbourne, needed a job and the rest is history. As well as being a generous hearted chef, Daniel is also an artist. His paintings draw inspiration from the landscape, they blend together elements of impressionism, abstraction and the surreal. His painting process is fluid and dynamic, as the paint is built up slowly in numerous subtle glazes. Life in the kitchen can be chaotic and Daniel described his studio practise as a way to slow down and be in control. When talking about living a balanced life Daniel said, “I love the freedom a creative life gives me. Every day is different and that is important to me.”

For those of you who feel inspired to create a delish treat, Daniel has shared one of his favourite recipes with us…. Yummy!

South Indian Coconut Chutney
This chutney is usually served with South Indian and Sri Lankan breakfasts such as dosas (savoury fermented rice and lentil crepes) or idlis (fermented and steamed rice dumplings).

2/3 cup desiccated coconut
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (including roots), washed really well to get rid of dirt
2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1/2 inch ginger, roughly chopped
1/4 medium onion, roughly chopped
1-2 fresh green chilli, roughly chopped
Spice powder
1 tsp split urid dal
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
Tempering spices
1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 sprig fresh curry leaves
Dash of hing (asafoetida)

Soak coconut with water until just covered by water (it will absorb all the water in about 10 minutes)

Put the urid dal in a small pan and toast until it has turned a pinkish brown colour. Take out and toast the cumin and coriander seeds until fragrant. Blend in a spice grinder or coffee grinder until totally smooth.

Using a blender, blend this spice powder with the soaked coconut, coriander, garlic, ginger, onion, chilli and a little salt until well blended. Add a little more water to help the blending if necessary.

In a small pan heat the coconut oil or ghee until hot. Add the mustard seeds and cook for about 15 seconds – they should splutter if the oil is hot enough. Once spluttering add the cumin seeds and the curry leaves and cook for another 15 seconds. Add the hing and then immediately tip the oil into the blended chutney.

Season the chutney to taste with salt and lemon juice. It should be strong and flavoursome and very lemony.

Note: You can omit the spice powder if you are in a hurry or don’t have a spice grinder.

To see more of Daniel’s work head to, or meet him in person at the Dandenong Ranges Open Studios on the 3rd and 4th of May.

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