A simple, red lentil dhal is such a great complement to so many vegetable dishes – not just curries or biryanis, pakoras or bhajis, but even simple fare such as shredded, stir-fried greens and a scoop of rice. It’s a delicious way to add protein to a veg-based meal too. This easy but authentic example is based on a recipe from the wonderful Indian chef Udit Sarkhel.
250g red lentils
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
3/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
2 tablespoons sunflower oil
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
To finish (optional)
A small bunch of parsley or coriander, or a couple of sprigs of mint, roughly chopped
Put the lentils in a pan with 800ml cold water and bring to the boil. Skim off any scum, then stir in the turmeric and salt. Lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 15 minutes, stirring or whisking vigorously every now and then, until the lentils have broken down completely and you have a puree – the consistency of a thick soup or thin porridge. You can whisk in a little hot water from a just-boiled kettle if you need to thin it a bit. Keep warm in the pan.
When the dhal is just about done, heat the sunflower oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and fry for a couple of
minutes until browned and fragrant. Add the onion and fry fairly briskly for 5–10 minutes until golden brown, even just a smidge burnt.
Tip the mixture on to the hot lentils in the pan, cover and leave for 5 minutes, then stir in the onions and cumin. Taste and adjust the seasoning. This is very good with coriander, parsley or mint sprinkled on top – but that’s not essential.
Text © 2011 by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, photography © 2011 by Simon Wheeler. Taken from River Cottage Every Day! by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury, £25).