e all know our favourite comfort foods on a cold, challenging day or just after a bit of a tough one be it winter or summer. They usually consist of English favourites like bangers and mash or a hearty pie. Mine vary throughout the seasons but usually consist of a creamy coconut rice topped with Asian salmon (recipe here) or a big bowl of fish soup. But dahl is another comfort food altogether and one that so effortlessly lives up to the job.
There are many types of dahl, made from varying pulses. Having sampled ‘Dishmoon‘s’ infamous black dahl I’ve been on a quest to make a rival recipe! I religiously order it with every visit to Dishoom. I even have a colleague who orders a portion with the bill so he gets a bowl ‘to go’. Its that good! However, I’ll be confidently honest here and admit that my attempt at a black dahl (recipe here) ticked the box for me in terms of flavour and decadence.
However, this variation is suitably named as ‘Speedy dahl’. The flavour is there but you don’t get the depth that you get from a slow cooked and infused recipe with commitment of time and love. So, after a long run around London last Sunday afternoon, a cold bitter chill in the air and a deserving appetite I set my pan on the hob to master a new recipe. Serve in bowlfuls with roti, naan, chapatis or flatbread alone or refined here with a piece of elegantly friend sea bass, it’ll offer the comfort you need. Its a hug in a bowl…..
- 3 tsp cumin and coriander seeds
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 3 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- Knob ginger (about 35g), finely pounded with a pestle & mortar/grated
- 1 large garlic clove, finely pounded with a pestle & mortar/grated
- 1/2 can chopped tomatoes
- 600ml coconut milk
- 250g yellow split peas (rinsed well)
- 3-4 small green chillies, finely chopped
- 4 fresh curry leaves
- 1-2 limes
- Coriander, roughly chopped
- To start, drain the split peas well in 4-5 changes of water then allow them to sit in a bowl of water while you start the dahl.
- Dry fry the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds in a hot frying pan until fragrant. Next pound in a pestle and mortar.
- Add the turmeric, garam masala and set aside
- Heat the coconut oil in a hot frying pan and sweat the onion of ragout 10 minutes until soft and beginning to carmalise.
- Next add the ginger, garlic and chopped chillies and cook for a few more minutes.
- Add the dry spices (and a touch more coconut oil if needed) and stir all to combine, frying the spiced onions for 2-3 minutes more.
- Add the tomatoes, coconut milk and the curry leaves. Drain the split peas and add these too.
- Bring to the simmer and then allow to bubble slowly and gently for about 1 – 1.1/2 hours (alternatively pop in a low 150°C oven with a lid on) until the split peas become tender and begin to break down. Keep an eye on it while it simmers so it doesn’t catch on the bottom. Add a touch of water if its drying out.
- After this time and the lentils are soft, remove from the heat. Use a potato masher to gently ‘mush’ the lentils into a paste. This is just to make it thicker, you don’t need to aim for a smooth dahl.
- Taste and season well and add the juice of at least 1 lime or more if required. It should lift the taste of the whole dahl.
- Scatter with the coriander and the dahl is ready to serve!
I served mine with fennel seed flatbreads (recipe here). Amend the spice/seeds as needed.