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Dani VennPlant Based Vegan, Veggie

The first time I saw His Holiness the Dalai Lama was on a grey Melbourne morning at a football oval in Carlton. I’m sure some would argue it was sacred turf, but to me it certainly wasn’t the most spiritual of places.

I was by myself, my friends had bailed because of the rain, but I sat there joined by other wannabe Buddhist types to listen to His Holiness speak. One of the first things His Holiness mentioned was that he is not super human, he will not make miracles occur and that he is just like you and me. I wanted to believe his modest pleas, but I couldn’t help thinking this man has changed millions of peoples lives for the better, he is a symbol of hope, a profoundly wise person who preaches happiness, tolerance, non-violence and positivity and I know he has made many miracles occur, especially for the thousands of Tibetan refugees living in exile in India.

Despite the rain, it was an absolute privilege being in the presence of His Holiness listening to his teachings, and I walked away feeling all warm inside. It never would have occurred to me then that years later I would be face to face with His Holiness on a reality television show called MasterChef cooking him lunch.


MasterChef was the most surreal experience of my life. We had just arrived back from a manic two weeks in New York where things like cooking at the United Nations and taking over Times Square actually happened, then without a moments rest we were flown to Melbourne for our next challenge. How can we top NYC? I thought to myself, but it was about to be blown out of the water.

Meeting His Holiness, holding his hand, receiving a teaching from him and cooking him food that he ate and enjoyed, for me is the equivalent of a nun getting it on with the pope (figuratively speaking!) It was a tremendous experience! His Holiness was not allowed to judge our food, but when the judges asked what dish he remembered the most, he said my beans and dahl! What a spin out.

I love dahl, it’s incredibly comforting, simple and cheap to make. I will warn you now though, it can make you gassy! My favourite way to make dahl is with yellow split peas and is more in line with the way Sri Lankan’s make dahl, with coconut milk, curry leaves and spices. I hope that you enjoy my recipe as much as His Holiness did… Dani x

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Serves: Many as part of a shared feast.

Time: It will take about an hour to make

Number of ingredients: 9


2 cups of yellow split peas, rinse them first

2 teaspoons of freshly minced or ground turmeric

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 teaspoon mustard seeds

1 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (or more to taste!)

2 teaspoons whole cumin seeds

3 sprigs fresh curry leaves (I love curry leaves so I always add more)

2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic

1 cup coconut milk or cream


To make this recipe a success, take a few deep breaths and pause, forget about the stresses of the day, think about the special person you are making this for and how much they will enjoy you cooking a meal for them and then proceed, trying to take as much care as possible being in the present moment.

Take a large saucepan, , add in the split peas, turmeric and 1 – 1.5  litres of water. Bring the water to the boil then reduce it to a gentle simmer, and allow the peas to become tender and the water to almost evaporate, this might take about 30 minutes.

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In a frying pan, add coconut oil over medium heat, when the oil has melted add in mustard seeds, chilli flakes, cumin seeds, curry leaves and garlic, allow to cook for a few minutes until you smell the fragrance of the spices and the mustard seeds start popping. Remove from heat, then pour all the mixture into the dahl, stir well, then add coconut milk, continue stirring and simmering for a further 5 minutes ensuing the dahl doesn’t get stuck to the bottom of the pan, season with salt flakes to taste. If you prefer a runnier dahl, add more coconut milk. Keep warm and serve with brown rice.

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