The scent of spices cooking in the kitchen always gives me a sweet nostalgia for our days in India. It spins me off into long daydreams about our adventures. Using our hands to scoop up dal and rice. The sweet, comforting smell of chai dancing through the train carriage. Thick clouds of steam drifting off our plates of biriyani.
Being the foodies that we are, we talk about these moments (and food in general) a lot. But we also love spending time trying to recreate these special flavours at home. We make this Yellow Dal nearly every week, as we love it so much! It’s simple to prepare, has incredible flavour and is perfectly comforting without being too rich. Our Millet Flatbreads are an amazing side to this, or else it's really delicious served with short grain brown rice.
Fresh curry leaves are the star of this dal. Tempered with spices and coconut oil, then added to the dal at the end, they add such an aromatic, tasty flavour to the whole dish. They also have some incredible health benefits - including anti-oxidant properties. Some studies have even found that the chemical constituents in curry leaves are helpful in fighting cancer! You can find fresh curry leaves in an Asian supermarket, avoid the dried ones, as they don't have any flavour.
Even if you haven’t been to India, we hope the scents and flavours of this dish transport you to some place warm and special …
Ingredients (Serves 4-6 with rice or breads)
for the dal:
2 cups split red lentils or tur lentils, well rinsed and drained
1/3 cup tomato pasata or 2 medium tomatoes
1 large onion, finely sliced (half for the dal, half for the tadka)
1 inch ginger, finely chopped
25 fresh curry leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric powder or grated fresh turmeric
2 green chillies (optional)
2/3 tsp salt
For the tadka:
2 tblsp coconut oil
1.5 tsp black mustard seeds
15 fresh curry leaves
1 dried kasmiri chilli (optional)
Put the rinsed lentils into a large pan and cover with water by 4-5 cm. Add in all of the remaining dal ingredients. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for around 30 minutes (45-60 with tur dal). The lentils should be very soft, use a potato masher or a wooden spoon to mash them into a creamy texture. You can add more water or simmer for longer depending on the consistency you like. We like ours like a thick soup.
For the tadka, heat the coconut oil in a small non stick or small heavy bottomed pan. Then add the mustard seeds and cook for around 20-40 seconds until they are all popping. Then add the remaining half of sliced onion, the curry leaves and the chilli if using. Stir fry on a medium to high heat for 5 or so minutes until the onions just start to brown, then add the whole mixture into the lentil pan. Mix very well and then leave covered for at least 15 minutes for the flavours to infuse before eating.