I’m often asked about my recipes on sourdough courses, my 2nd book was recently The Telegraph book of the week and is called Food for Thought.
Dal is the name for both the dried split lentil and the thick, soupy stew made from it, which is a staple part of the diet of hundreds of millions of people across Nepal, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. As dal bhat – literally lentils and rice – it provides both starch and protein in a diet that contains little or no meat. You can have it on the table in less time than it takes for a takeaway ordered over the phone to arrive, and aside from the fact that it costs very little to make, it helps the planet too. The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that animals bred and killed for food
generate about 18 per cent of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the entire transport sector, so having one more meat-free dinner each week will help to reduce your personal ‘footprint’. This was the very first ‘Indian’ dish I made when I went to university. I really didn’t have a clue what I was doing, but Raj, the owner of a corner shop on Belgrave Road in Leicester, translated as an elderly Gujarati lady talked me through the basics. She put various ingredients in my basket, none of which had names I understood, and I cycled home and made dal. I was so proud, and I have been making it ever since. A family friend from Nepal later showed me how to use coconut oil in this recipe instead of ghee, which makes it a vegan dish. It’s really easy to make and will give you a wonderfully fragrant and filling simple meal.
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 2 medium onions, finely chopped
- 3 tablespoons garam masala
- finely grated zest of 1 lime
- finely grated zest of 1 lemon
- 250g red lentils
- approx. 650ml cold water
- 1 level tablespoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon jaggery or dark brown sugar
For the topping
- 2 tablespoons coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
- 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
- 1 tablespoon cumin seeds
- a handful of fresh coriander leaves only,
- roughly chopped
Put the coconut oil in a large heavy pan over a moderate heat then add the onions and saute until lightly golden. Stir in the garam masala and lime and lemon zest, cook for a further minute then add the lentils and water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover the pan, then simmer for 20–25 minutes until the lentils are soft. Check and stir often to make sure they do not dry out, adding more water if necessary. You want the dal consistency to be somewhere between a pureÅLe and very thick soup. Stir in the sugar and salt just before serving.
Meanwhile, make the aromatic topping. Heat the coconut oil in a separate pan, add the fennel, coriander and cumin seeds and cook for about 2 minutes until the oil is fragrant. Set aside. When the dal is ready to serve, pour the spiced coconut oil over the top, and sprinkle with the fresh coriander.
Perfect served with steamed or boiled long grain or basmati rice and a spoonful of spicy pickle & sourdough chapatti bread.