I know this is not exactly a local ingredient but I make it when I am sick, when skies are grey and when I am hungover. All three of those situations have occurred recently so I thought it was worth sharing. I used to think I knew exactly how to make dal (having been eating it and making it for more than twenty years…gosh I know what you are thinking... A toddler cooking her own food…anyhow…) and then because I was teaching it, I looked up a few recipes and techniques… found this one, adapted it a bit and I now absolutely swear by it.
Now the great thing about this recipe (apart from ticking just about every health box going…lycopenes from the tomatoes, anti bacterial/ viral/ cancer Turmeric, antibiotic onions and garlic, cleansing ginger, endophion inducing chillies) is that it is incredibly easy and very fast and it also makes two dishes. On the first day, eat with rice (it's supposed to be fairly liquid, sort of like a thick vegetable puree soup) then on the second day (when in fact it will taste better) thin down with a little water and eat it as soup.
200g red lentils
1 liter water
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 small onion chopped
3-4 whole green chillies, pricked with a knife (feel free to up the chilli ante)
2cm/¾in piece fresh ginger peeled and chopped into cubes (I actually put more ginger in but then I like a lot of ginger)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tsp ground turmeric
¾ tsp garam masala (a mix of cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, cloves and black pepper) - try and find all the spices in particular the cardamom but no disaster if one is missing
1½ tsp ground coriander
salt and freshly ground black pepper
handful chopped fresh coriander leaves
Cook the lentils:
Place the lentils and 900ml of the water into a pan, stir well and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that forms on the surface of the water with a spoon. Cover the pan with a lid and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer, stirring regularly, for 20-30 minutes, or until the lentils are just tender, adding more water as necessary.
When the lentils have cooked through, remove the pan from the heat and use a whisk to break down the lentils. Set the mixture aside to thicken and cool.
While the lentils are cooking:
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for 20-30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add all the remaining spices (you may need a little more oil..they tend to absorb a lot of oil)
Add the onion, chillies and ginger and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown. Add the garlic and lightly fry (garlic burns easily). Add the tin of tomatoes. Add 100ml of water. Simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
Pour the tomato, spice and onion mixture into the saucepan with the lentils.
Blitz the whole thing with a stick blender until it is very creamy and smooth.
Check the taste and add more salt or pepper as necessary. Stir in the chopped coriander just before serving. Serve with plain boiled basmati rice or thinned down as a soup. A good cold beer is what is needed with this, although it's not really part of the de-tox theme.
By Rachel Sargent, Guest Writer
Rachel Sargent is owner of The London Street Atelier, which organizes cookery classes, private dinners and offers catering. More about it here.
(photo credits: Rachel Sargent)