Anna Jones' Sweet Potato Dhal recipe

Two bowls of sweet potato topped dhal

I’ve accumulated quite a few dhal recipes over the years and have a dhal for pretty much any mood or occasion. For a good, basic fail-safe dhal I’ll use Meera Sodha’s Daily Dal recipe; it’s no-frills, rich and comforting. If I’ve over-indulged and need something lighter then it’s Anna Jones’ lemon and lentil soup and for something completely special (but time-consuming) I’ll cook Dishoom’s House Black Daal made with loads of butter and cream. But the recipe I cook and recommend the most has to be Anna Jones’ sweet potato dhal. It’s everything I want in a dhal: delicious, healthy and easy to make. I’ll be honest and say that I’ve never made the coconut chutney. I’m sure it’s great but the dhal is fantastic on its own so I top it with sweet potato and leave it at that. 

Besides leaving out the chutney I’ve only made the smallest of tweaks: I double the recipe but still use one can of coconut milk (adding more stock instead), I use a bit less cinnamon and I add a big bag of spinach.

Ingredients

Serves: 6-8

Sweet potato

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes, skins on, cut into 1.5cm cubes
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • ½ tsp fennel seeds
  • salt and pepper
  • olive or rapeseed oil

Dhal

  • 2 red onions, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 inch chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped (roughly 3 tbsp)
  • 2 green chillis, chopped
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 1½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 400g split red lentils
  • 1 tin coconut milk (400ml)
  • 1 litre vegetable stock
  • 250g fresh spinach
  • Large bunch of coriander, chopped (including stalks)
  • Juice from 2 lemons
  • olive or rapeseed oil

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200°C (180°C fan). Place a large saucepan over a medium heat and add about a tablespoon of olive or rapeseed oil.
  2. Put the sweet potato cubes (from 2 medium sweet potatoes) onto a large roasting tray and drizzle over some oil. Sprinkle over 1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon of fennel seeds and some salt and pepper. Roast for around 25 minutes until the sweet potato has started to colour around the edges.
  3. Add 2 diced red onions to the large saucepan and fry for 5 minutes then add 4 chopped garlic cloves, 3 tablespoons of chopped ginger and 2 chopped green chillis. Fry for 10 minutes or so.
  4. Bash 2 teaspoons each of cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar then add to the saucepan along with 1½ teaspoons of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of cinnamon. Fry for a minute, stirring well to make sure that the spices don’t burn.
  5. Add 400g red lentils, 400ml coconut milk and 1 litre of vegetable stock to the saucepan and stir well. Once the dhal starts to bubble, turn the heat down and simmer for around 25 minutes or until the lentils have softened. Add a little water from a boiled kettle if the consistency of the dhal gets too thick.
  6. Add 250g fresh spinach, a large handful of chopped coriander (reserving a few leaves to garnish at the end) and the juice from 2 lemons. Taste the dhal and adjust the seasoning if needed then remove the saucepan from the heat. Pour the dhal into bowls and top with the roasted sweet potato cubes and remaining coriander leaves.

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