RED LENTIL & COURGETTE DHAL

I got nervous.

When I decided to switch my mind-set to that of a vegetarian 5 days a week, something that made me slightly nervous was how I was going to maintain my appetite for Indian food. So much of my Eastern inspired cooking relied on meats, fish and meat-based stock, I was slightly nervous that I would be limited to what vegetarian Indian dishes I would be able to eat.

But then I read more and more about dhal and my nerves were relaxed.

Indian cooking colonises the home cook. Often extremely simple to cook, relaxing to prepare and beautiful to look at, I am always looking for new Indian recipes to incorporate into my repertoire. It’s also man example of my laziness, as I tend to only like recipes that require a handful of ingredients, and as a lot of Indian ingredients pack such intense and hearty flavours, you don’t need a lot to make a statement.

Dhal’s never particularly appealed to me – not because of the dhal itself, but because of the lentils. It just sounds so boring. ‘What did you have?’ – ‘A lentil curry’ – it just doesn’t sound good, does it? But alas, weeks and weeks into my 5day Veggie life, I discovered that I had a pack of lentils left in my cupboard as a result of an overzealous shopping trip, I decided to put them to good use.

This dhal is quick and extremely tasty and the coconut fat (found rising to the top of a standard can of coconut milk) adds a silky sweetness to the dish that I like to round off with some sliced raw chilies to balance the palette.

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Finely chop a white onion and fry gently in a little coconut oil in a deep pan. Grate in a clove of garlic and a few cm of fresh ginger. Add 1 tsp of ground coriander, 1 tsp of turmeric and a twist of black pepper and stir., Pour in about a cup of red lentils and stir so that they take on the glossy spices.

Now take a can of coconut milk and scrape a tablespoon of hard coconut fat from the top. Add this to the pan and stir. Once this has broken down and created a creamy based amongst the lentils, pour in a litre and a half of good vegetable stock, half the can of coconut milk and stir. Bring this to a boil and drop to a simmer, clamp on a lid and allow to bubble for 10 minutes.

In this time, slice up a courgette into pound coin slices and then halve these again so you have a bunch of thin(ish) half-moons. Open up your pan and throw these in after the 10 minutes is up and simmer again for a further 10 minutes so that the courgettes can take on the flavour and intensify.

Serve the dahl with a leafy handful of coriander thrown in as well as a few slices of raw red chili, if your mouth is up to it.

Eat it curled on a sofa with a big bowl and a big spoon. I also dipped a na’an br

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