Sometimes you just need a curry – right?
I didn’t have many fresh ingredients in the house when I got the urge – so I thought a plain dhal would do the trick – but only a very very good one.
Sometimes the problem with dhal is that it’s a little lacking in pizazz. Fine, in fact, preferable, on the side of a more exciting curry, but when it’s the main event it needs to have oodles of flavour for it to really work.
All hail this recipe (I promise). It’s got all the comfort of the lentils and general dish-you-can-eat-with-a-spoon mouthfeel, but I pepped it up with the zing of a lime and the fruitiness of fresh tomato to balance out the stodgy texture.
I think a ‘real’ dhal would have cumin in it, but although I keep trying and retrying cumin, every time it’s in a dish I find it really overpowering, so I’ve left it out of this one, instead using just a touch of turmeric. Don’t add too much – as it can taste a little too musty – and do make sure you moisten the spices with some water and fry them off first – there’s nothing worse than a curry that tastes like one of the ingredients is dust.
I made naan bread and bombay potatoes to go on the side of this (both delicious and yes I do say so myself – but Mr Roast Chicken agreed, so it must be true). For the naan bread, I took inspiration from this FABULOUS series that I often turn to from The Guardian, where Felicity Cloake trawls though scores of recipes for one particular item, and combines the best of each of them to create ‘the perfect’ version. For the Bombay Potatoes, I simply boiled then fried off the potatoes in some mustard seeds, salt and turmeric, and very nice they were 🙂 I mean, you can’t go wrong with fried potatoes. I also squeezed a bit of lime juice and added a dollop of yoghurt to some chopped tomatoes to serve on the side as a kind of salsa. It worked a treat as a cooling little dip to contrast with the hot dhal.
Here’s how to make the dhal:
Red Lentil Dhal
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
a thumb sized piece of ginger, finely grated
a pinch of cinnamon
salt and pepper
a knob of butter (ghee would give it a more authentic flavour, but I didn’t have any!)
a knob of coconut cream
1 onion, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
350g red lentils
50g green lentils
1 vegetable stock cube
about 150ml water (add more during cooking if it’s getting a bit dry)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 fresh tomato, chopped finely
the juice from half a lime, to serve
1. Put the spices in a bowl and mix with a splash of water before frying in the butter / ghee.
2. After a minute, add the onions, garlic, carrots and celery and sweat down for about 20 minutes.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients to the pan and cook for 45 minutes, until the lentils are very tender. You’ll probably need to stir it around half way through to stop the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan.
4. Just before serving with lashings of naan bread and Bombay Potatoes, add the lime juice and give it a stir.
I’ll be adding this to Jacqueline’s Meat Free Mondays – hop on over for more ideas!