If you have a couple of onions, garlic, a bag of red lentils and a few spices then you can make dhal. I think it’s one of the most flexible, nourishing and comforting things you can cook. It freezes brilliantly, our 18 month old twins love it and you can pimp it up with all sorts of toppings.
Here is my super flexible recipe, but it really just a guide, feel free to add different spices or whatever you have in your store cupboard. Cardamom, ground cloves, cumin, coriander, all spice and garam masala are all good. I used to always add chilli (flakes, powder or fresh) but don’t now because of the kids, but if you don’t have such considerations feel free to add a kick of heat.
400g red lentils
2 onions, sliced
2 tablespoons oil (sunflower, coconut or rapeseed)
1 cinnamon stick or 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
4 garlic cloves, crushed
5cm fresh ginger, grated or 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
Wash the lentils until the water runs clear and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large lidded saucepan. Once hot add the onions & cinnamon (and wee pinch of salt). Turn the heat down to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring often.
After 10 minutes add the ginger & garlic and cook for a few more minutes. Add the lentils, turmeric and 1 litre of hot water. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down to medium/low and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the lentils are tender. Add extra water if you need it.
Add a teaspoon of salt or more to taste. You can stir in some coconut milk, cream or yoghurt if you’d like it more creamy, but this is totally optional. I often add half a can of coconut milk about 5 minutes before the end of cooking. Serve simply with steamed rice or crusty bread or go mad with the toppings. See my suggestions for delicious things to top your dhal with below.
– Pickles – cucumber, radish, pink pickled onions, chilli (anything really)
– Yoghurt (dairy or for dairy-free coconut yoghurt is great!)
– Stir-fried greens (cabbage, broccoli, kale, chard, spinach – see our recipe here)
– Lime pickle, mango chutney, wild garlic pesto (see recipe here), sriracha or any other spicy preserves languishing in your fridge
– Roasted nuts or seeds – sesame, nigella, sunflower, pumpkin, peanuts, pistachios
– Croutons made from stale pitta, sourdough or wheat wraps (break into pieces, toss in a little oil and dry out in a low oven until crisp)
– Crispy fried onions
– An egg (my fave) – poached, boiled (and halved) or fried