Is there a correct way to spell this dish: daal, dahl, or dal?
I love daal. Or dahl. It’s so soul-satisfyingly hearty, in any weather, that I’m finding that I just can’t get enough. I’ve tried several variations, and my favourite as of yet is this sweet potato and red lentil variety, by BBC GoodFood. The two of them – sweet potato and lentils – soften to become what I can only describe as glorious orange mush, but it’s so delicious that the aesthetic matters not one jot. GoodFood accompany it with curried vegetables, which is a nice addition, and makes for a very healthy and filling meal. I’d recommend giving it a go.
In my opinion, though, daal is best when cooked in coconut milk. It adds another few fathoms of depth to the dish, which cooking in stock or water doesn’t quite match. On my quest for the perfect daal, I want to see if anything can match sweet potato as the perfect partner to the lentils – and mushrooms have come close to matching it.
This recipe uses this one from Annie’s Kitchen as its base, and curiously, she spells it ‘dal’. Is there any end to this confusion?
- 100g mung lentils – which I didn’t use: I went for 200g red lentils, for two portions.
- half a red onion
- two cloves of garlic
- one green chilli
- a small knob of ginger (this and the chilli wasn’t called for, but I love spice, and ginger is never a bad addition)
- six chestnut mushrooms
- three-quarters of a bag of spinach
- half a tin of coconut milk (I froze the remainder in a freezer bag)
- two pinches of vegetable stock
- juice of half a lemon
- a tsp cumin seeds
- a tsp fennel seeds
- a tsp mustard seeds
- naan breads
- salt and pepper
Start by finely chopping the onion, garlic, and chilli. Using a knife, carefully cut off the outside layer of the ginger, and chop.
In a dry frying pan, toast the spices over a low heat until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Take the pan off the heat before they fly all over the walls. Put the spices into a mortar and grind (or use the end of your chopping knife in a hummous pot, like I did.) The aromas released small fantastic.
In a saucepan, heat a glug of olive oil and fry the onion and garlic over a low heat, for around five minutes. In the meantime, slice the mushrooms, weigh out the lentils, and boil the kettle. Then add the mushrooms and cook for another five minutes.
Pour in the coconut milk with the spices and lentils. Add the vegetable stock powder, and top with boiling water: incorporate well, making sure to break down any clumps of coconut. Put the lid on the pan and simmer for half an hour, or until the lentils are mushy. You’ll most likely need to top up the pan with water, and stir to prevent the daal from sticking.
When the daal is done, begin wilting in handfuls of spinach at a time. Put the naan bread in the oven for five minutes to warm up, or until slightly toasted around the edges. Finally, squeeze in the lemon juice, season well, and stir again before serving.