One year when 7 of my friends and I took a jaunt down to Cornwall, I cooked up a vat of dhal (very Cornish, yes?) flavoured with gentle spices, coconut and lime to feed the masses and accompany a spicy dry lamb curry. Watching your friends devour something you've made is pretty damn satisfying and since then the recipe has been requested. I couldn't quite think of why it wasn't on the blog until I made it recently; it's quite ugly. Nevertheless, it's delicious and it feels like an enormous hug in a bowl, so here it is anyway. It's fairly adaptable; I've in the past thickened it with slimy okra, or loosened it with stock to make soup but my favourite form is as a dhal, to be scooped up with roti.
The coconut milk cooked with velvety aubergines can be quite rich, so a cooling red onion and cucumber salad freshens it all up a bit and adds a bit of punch.
Aubergine, Coconut & Lime Dhal
Serves 4 as a side or 2 as a main
200gr red lentils
1 can of coconut milk + 2 canfuls of water or stock
1 tsp salt
1 large onion
6 garlic cloves
2" of ginger
A large pinch of asafoetida - not essential, but it keeps the uhm, wind away
1 tsp turmeric
1.5 tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp (or to taste) chilli powder
1 heaped tsp cumin seeds
2 green cardamom pods
1 tsp garam masala
1 large aubergine
3 tbsp oil
Chopped coriander, to serve
Chop the onion, garlic and ginger finely, or whack it in a food processor. Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a pan and add the cumin seeds. Cook until they become aromatic, then add in the onion, garlic and ginger mixture. Cook this on a low heat until a deep brown but not burnt; this takes about 20 mins.
Add the chilli powder, asafoetida salt, ground coriander, the cardamom pods (split) and turmeric - stir well to combine. Wash the lentils and add to the pan, coating with the spices and finally add the coconut milk and water / stock. Bring to the boil and simmer merrily for 40 mins, stirring occasionally.
Meanwhile, slice the aubergine into fingers. Heat the rest of the oil in a nonstick pan and fry until browned on both sides. Add the aubergine into the simmering dhal - they need a good 20 mins in there so don't dilly dally.
5 minutes before the dhal is ready, add the garam masala. To serve, squeeze the juice of the lime over the dhal and sprinkle with coriander, chopped.
For your salad:
Red Onion & Cucumber Salad
1 red onion
1 red chilli
1/2 a cucumber
1 clove of garlic
1 stalk of spring onion
1/2 tsp black onion seeds
1.5 tbsp vegetable oil
Slice the red onion finely into half moons and using the juice of half a lemon, soak for 1/2 an hour. Drain, rinse and return to a bowl. Peel and deseed the cucumber, then add to the onion. Add the chilli, chopped finely. Mince the garlic and the spring onion and toss though the onion and cucumber. Finally, add the onion seeds.
Heat up the oil until almost smoking, then carefully pour over the onions and cucumber mix - it should sizzle. The idea is this brings out the aromatics. Leave to cool, and serve with the dhal.