20 Jan coconut dhal
Without consciously setting out to, so far this year I’ve only offered up meat-free recipes in this column. January is traditionally the time we drastically cut out or banish ingredients For me, I’ve been changing the way I look at meat for the last couple of years. Instead of looking at it as an essential part to a meal, I’ve started to look at meat as a luxury. A British study in 2014 found that meat-based diets caused twice the climate-warming emissions as vegetarian diets (http://bit.ly/meatdiet).
Thinking about this has led me to look at meat as a treat, to be enjoyed a couple of times a week. Because I’m buying less, I can spend a little more, shopping in reputable butchers such as Coolanowle Organic at Green Door Market and Ennis Butchers, both in my local Dublin 8. Granted, I have the freedom to make this choice because I’m not cooking for a family who have become attached to the meat next to their two vegetables. Arming yourself with a couple of delicious meat-free recipes might help you to incorporate a few meat-free days in your weekly meal routine.
Dhal (also spelled dal or daal) is the Indian word for lentils, but it’s also the word for the soups and curries we make from these pulses. This dhal is a really speedy supper that is particularly comforting at this time of year. I’ve put my trusty curry paste base of mustard seeds, onions and spices to use here, sweetened by the addition of a good dollop of coconut milk.
I’ve used the method of boiling the lentils in the dhal base, because they tend to go very mushy when boiled in a pan of water. I’ve wrecked the bottom of a few saucepans cooking them that way, too. I’ve found giving them a good rinse and then adding them to the sauce is the best way to cook them. Serve it hot or warm, with some good quality naan bread on the side.
Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes
1 teaspoon of brown mustard seeds
1 onion, finely sliced
1 teaspoon of chilli flakes
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 teaspoon of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
Half a tin of coconut milk
Pinch of salt
Pinch of pepper
300g red lentils
1 green chilli
1. Heat a drizzle of vegetable oil in a large deep pan over a medium heat. Fry the mustard seeds in the oil for a few minutes before adding Add the finely sliced onion and chilli flakes, and fry gently for ten minutes until the onions have softened and are translucent. Add the garlic and fry for another couple of minutes. You want the garlic to start to give off its lovely smell but not to burn. Add the ground coriander and cumin, stir, and cook for another minute.
2. Next, add the tinned tomatoes, half a tin of coconut milk, a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix everything really well.
3. Rinse the lentils under cold water and drain. Finally, add the lentils to the pan with the tomato dhal base and bring to a boil. Simmer for twenty minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Season with a bit more salt and pepper, to taste.
4. Serve your dhal with some fresh coriander and chopped green chilli on top, with slices of lime and naan bread on the side.
Storecupboard Essential: Dried Lentils
Lentils can be divided into three main groups: brown, green and red. Brown, such as puy lentils, cook very quickly, while the green (which yellow lentils would fit into) take a little longer and maintain their shape really well. Red lentils cook in less than half an hour, breaking down into a mushy paste, making them perfect for dhals.
This recipe first appeared in The Irish Independent on Thursday 19th January 2017