Dhal (also spelt Dahl, Daal or Dal) typically refers to a thick stew prepared from pulses (dried lentils, peas or beans) which have been stripped and split. It is a simple dish but the combination of coconut milk, spices and tomatoes make it really special.
The recipe is pretty flexible; most vegetables work well so you can use up whatever else you may have in your fridge to good effect. On this occasion I added spinach and some mushrooms, but peppers, carrots, aubergines and cauliflower could work equally well.
Accompanying naan bread and mango chutney are a must, but if you want to make more of an effort, serve the dhal with onion bhajis, pakoras and rice.
- Heat the oil over a medium-high heat in a large saucepan. Sauté the onion for 5 minutes before adding the garlic, ginger, cumin and mustard seeds. Cook for a further 5 minutes until the seeds begin to pop.
- Add in the turmeric, chili powder and garam masala and cook for around a minute to allow the flavours to disperse, stirring well to prevent the spices burning.
- Then add in the water, coconut milk, lentils and tomatoes, season well with salt and black pepper and give everything a good stir. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan, leaving the dhal to cook for around 30 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils sticking.
- Stir in the lime juice and most of the coriander, then check the seasoning. I also like to add a dash of Worcestershire sauce and a squeeze of tomato ketchup at this point but it's optional. Now is also the time to add any extra vegetables you may have to hand, in my case spinach and mushrooms. Cook for a final 15 minutes until the lentils soften and become tender.
- Serve in a bowl with a sprinkle of chopped coriander, a fresh grind of pepper, naan bread and a generous splodge of mango chutney.