The word tiffin is an Indian name for a lunchbox. Tiffins (or dhabbas) come in all shapes and sizes, but traditionally they are round, with three or four stacking stainless steel compartments firmly sealed with a tight-fitting lid and a side clip to avoid any nasty spillages and a handle for carrying on top.
In India food cooked at home with care and love is considered to deliver not only healthy (and relatively cheap) food but also divine contentment. Lunch is usually eaten thali-style, with a selection of regional delicacies that may include any combination of spicy vegetables, dhal, rice, yoghurt, pickles, bread and pudding served on a big steel plate or a banana leaf. The separate compartments in the tiffin lunchbox accommodate thali lunches perfectly.
My sister bought me a tiffin for christmas a few years ago. I love my tiffin for transporting all sorts of goodies! The three little compartments ensure there’s room for a salad, fruit selection and snacks to take to work, or homemade hummus, pittas and cupcakes on a summer picnic.
My tiffin is also really useful for storing pre-made stews and curries in the fridge. This sweet potato and chickpea stew is one of my favourites. It’s so simple to make and keeps brilliantly frozen or refrigerated.
I no longer eat nightshade fruits or vegetables – which includes tomatoes and white potatoes – as they aggravate my skin. In the past, adding tinned tomatoes would have been standard in most of my winter stews. I would also love to add a bit of spice with some chopped chillies or peppers, but my skin hates those too! Fortunately there’s so much flavour in the spices I’ve used here, that this beautiful, vibrant combination doesn’t need it.
Tin of chickpeas
Tin of kidney beans
Puy lentils ~ for ease you can buy them ready prepared
30g gram flour
2 sweet potatoes
1 red onion
1 white onion
2 cloves of garlic
Springs of fresh coriander
Half a teaspoon of ground cumin ~ teaspoon of cumin seeds ~ half a teaspoon of garam masala blend
Salt and pepper to taste
Teaspoon coconut oil
Peel and chop both sweet potatoes roughly into 1 inch chunks. Sprinkle ground cumin, cumin seeds and salt and pepper over them and roast in the oven with a little coconut or extra virgin olive oil at 180C for around 20mins.
Meanwhile, warm the coconut oil in a large saucepan. Finely chop both onions and cloves of garlic. Throw in the pan and gently warm through for around 5-10 mins until soft.
Pour 300ml of water into the pan and stir the gram flour through. Drain the kidney beans and chickpeas (rinse both through a colander) add them to the stew, ensure the saucepan is on a low heat and stir through the puy lentils and ground spices (aside from the fresh coriander).
Stir the frozen peas into the stew. There’s no need to thaw them first, they’ll cook just perfectly along with everything else.
Check to see if your sweet potatoes have softened enough through roasting to add them. They should not be too soft and mushy, make sure there’s still a little firmness to them.
Chop the potatoes into smaller cubes and stir through, using salt and paper to season.
Finally spoon your stew into a tiffin or bowl and sprinkle sprigs of fresh coriander over your stew to serve