For the first 20 or so years of my life I had dismissed the idea of eating lentils as I simply didn’t know how to cook them and had no desire to order a dish without meat when going out for food! Then one day when at University I watched my then-flatmate-now-wife make what seemed to be the simplest dish out of these little red lentils. Surely you have to put loads of ingredients in to make these pulses taste in any way edible?! I was very wrong…
Dhal (often called Dal) is a cheap to prepare meal eaten throughout India and the surrounding countries and an excellent source of protein. It goes well with any curried meat, or in the past when cooking just for myself I would eat it with chapatti or rice. You can use pretty much any spices you like to this – often I get my eldest son AB to choose what spices to put in! We sometimes end up with some interesting combinations but as long as you don’t put too much of any one spice in then it will still taste delicious.
Below is the recipe I often use to cook dhal, you can vary the types and quantities of spice you use according to your taste. The only thing I tend to stay clear of is adding too much, if any, chilli. You really don’t need any heat with this meal. A more common method is to boil the lentils and the separately fry the spices in oil before tipping them into the lentils at the last minute. Personally I prefer the “one pot” approach I use below, I like the idea that you add the spices to start with and then just leave it to bubble away whilst you concentrate on the rest of your meal.
Serves: 2 Adults + 2 kids as a side dish
Splash of vegetable oil
2 cloves garlic
¼ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp coriander
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp cumin
Salt, to taste
150g red lentils
400mls boiling water
About 10 curry leaves (optional)
- Fry the chopped onion over a medium heat for 5 minutes until the onion has started to turn translucent. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute, making sure the garlic doesn’t brown.
- Add the spices, salt and the red lentils and quickly give it a stir to combine everything, then add the water. Add the curry leaves (if using).
- Turn the heat down low and let it gently bubble, giving it a stir every ten mins or so. You might need to add a splash of water if the lentils look a bit dry
- The lentils should be cooked after half an hour after which time they will start to break down and turn a bit mushy.
I’d really recommend you have a go with this, and get experimenting with different spice mixtures. It really is a great way of eating lentils.