#SaturdayNightCook : Dhal with crispy sweet potato and quick coconut chutney

There is a solidarity in doing the same things right now. For years many of us have been trying to be different – to find the thing no one else is doing , be the first one to discover something. But in these wild times days doing the same thing as others brings me great comfort. Seeing you all cook my rhubarb cookies last week made it feel like we were somehow together and lifted me up.

In the past month or so, lots of households I know seem to be finding happiness in focusing on feeding themselves well and eating together. (See the #makingamealofit from my friend Laura Jackson for some table inspiration.)

Saturdays in our house have become the time to spend a bit more time and effort on a meal and each weekend I’ve tried to make a simple but colourful feast to punctuate the week. This week it’s going to be curry night.

So I thought: why don’t we all cook together this Saturday night? To make a bit of an effort without having to change out of our leisurewear. Call your mates – see their faces – cook or eat with them. I might even try and do a cookalong.

I’m going to be cooking an old favourite that I know many of you will know and love for the first #SaturdayNightCook, my sweet potato dahl with coconut chutney, along with a kachumber salad. If you’re hungry, you could also make these beautiful flatbreads brushed with some garlic and cumin butter instead of the za’atar.

(For anyone unable to find flour, try this article for some pointers.)

If you cook with me then please share and use #SaturdayNightCook so I can repost all your efforts.


2 sweet potatoes, skins on, washed and roughly chopped into 1.5cm cubes
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon fennel seeds
olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
200g red lentils
1 × 400ml tin of coconut milk
400ml vegetable stock
2 large handfuls of spinach
a bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped, stalks and all
juice of 1 lemon

50g unsweetened desiccated coconut
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
a little vegetable or coconut oil
a 20g piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 red chilli, finely chopped

Preheat your oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Pour 150ml of boiling water over the coconut and leave to soak. Put your sweet potatoes on a roasting tray and add a good pinch of salt and pepper, the cumin and fennel seeds and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast in the oven for 20–25 minutes, until soft and sweet in the middle and crispy brown on the outside. In a large saucepan, sizzle the garlic, ginger, chilli and red onion in a little oil for about 10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Grind the cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar, then add to the pan with the other spices and cook for a couple of minutes to toast and release the oils. Add the lentils, coconut milk and stock to the pan and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down and bubble away for 25–30 minutes.

While that is cooking make your chutney. Drain the coconut and put it into a bowl. Fry the mustard seeds and curry leaves in a little oil until they begin to crackle, then pour the mixture over the coconut. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the ginger and chilli and give it a good mix. To finish your dhal, take it off the heat, then stir in the spinach and allow it to wilt a little, stirring in half the chopped coriander and the lemon juice too. Pile into bowls and top with the crispy sweet potatoes, spoonfuls of the coconut chutney and the remaining coriander.

Images:  Matt Russell /  Brian W Ferry

Posted: 16.04.20 37 Comments


Posted by Trish at 10:43 on the 16.01.17

Made this last night and it was fantastic. Nice depth of flavours. Be happy to serve this as a main for ‘meat’ eaters. I would make the dahl first and on the dinner night do the sweet potato/coconut, so I have more time for the guests.

Posted by Trish at 11:48 on the 16.01.17

Ok…this was so good I have ordered your book – A modern way to eat! And I hate collecting cookbooks! 🙂

Posted by Joey at 5:41 on the 17.01.17

Hi Anna,
This look’s delicious I cannot wait to make it. Just one quick (think) question, in the section for making chutney it says “drain the coconut”, confused by this as its desiccated coconut? Please help me to see the obvious so i can get making this!!:)

Posted by Elisabeth at 9:53 on the 20.01.17

Hi Anna, I love your recipes and own both of your books! Are you doing any appearances at Harrods, as I would loooove to meet you! Thanks so much, Elisabeth xx

Posted by Anna at 9:49 on the 30.01.17

Hello Elisabeth, I don’t think so but I am going to be at a few festivals and events later in the year so it’s worth keeping an eye on the events page of my website for those. All best wishes AJ x

Posted by Jade at 3:18 on the 23.01.17

Anna, I think I might have said this to you before on Insta, but I am absolutely obsessed with this recipe. I make it every Sunday evening and it’s my favourite thing to eat; I always look forward to it! Thank you SO much! 🙂 x

Posted by Anna at 9:48 on the 30.01.17

Thanks so much Jade, that’s so wonderful to hear

Posted by Linzi at 8:13 on the 24.01.17

You are brilliant. I love your recipes they are so easy to follow.

Posted by Katherine Rossmoore at 12:28 on the 29.01.17

I am wondering if one needs to pour boiling water over fresh coconut?

Posted by Kristen at 10:17 on the 31.01.17

I have never used curry leaves before. Are they fresh or dried?
Loved the Brunch Rice!
Thank you!

Posted by Anna at 3:43 on the 01.02.17

Hi Kristen, you can use either. Fresh curry leaves can be kept in the freezer for as long as needed, but dried work well – they just don’t have quite as strong a flavour. Hope that helps. AJ x

Posted by edel at 3:06 on the 20.02.17

I love reading your writing, as you have wonderfully evocative prose, the one thing that stops me buying your books (I have eaten some food from your recipes as my friend is a great cook) is that there is no nutritional information. I am (tediously) counting calories at the moment-fruits of years of excess- So as a suggestion for online/books, it would be great to see some calorie counts.

Posted by Komal Shah at 6:48 on the 13.03.17

I bought the book a year ago and have made this dhal multiple times. My husband says it’s the best he’s ever tasted! Thanks Anna!

Posted by fiona collier at 6:55 on the 26.04.17

hello, i have bought your book but can’t seem to find the recipe at all in it? Is it called something else in the book – i have scrolled through most of it?


Posted by Anna at 8:36 on the 27.04.17

Hello Fiona, this recipe is in my first book, A Modern Way to Eat. Not sure which one you have? But hopefully you can use the recipe online either way. All best wishes, AJ x

Posted by Helen at 7:05 on the 16.07.17

My favourite recipe from my favourite book, thanks so much we eat this often – my little ones love it too.

Posted by Anna at 10:17 on the 19.07.17

thanks so much Helen, so lovely to hear those kind words

Posted by Alan B at 8:06 on the 30.11.17

Where do you get curry leaves….? Not the supermarket..

Posted by anna at 2:10 on the 25.01.18

looks amazing – last time I made dahl, it took forever for the lentils to soften and even after lengthy cooking they still had quite a bit of bite to them. is there a specific kind I need to use? should they be split red lentils? thanks.

Posted by David & Carole at 8:32 on the 03.02.18

Our Stars must have been perfectly allianed when we found ‘ A Modern Way to Eat’, making our extensive collection of cookery books now redundant! Page 128 …..WOW!

Posted by Lynda at 7:12 on the 08.03.18

Fantastic combo! My partner has recently become a vegan and I’ve struggled for inspiration but this went down a storm – will definitely be a regular meal in our house from now on. Thank you.

Posted by Vegan Dad at 7:34 on the 22.04.18

This was fantastic – thanks so much for sharing online. I made it for my carnivore family. They ate every last bit of it. I’ll confess I didn’t go as far as the chutney, because I wanted to be sure the main parts worked. But I’m definitely making this dish again – and next time I’ll put the jar of mango chutney away and prepare your coconut version instead.

Posted by Kay at 10:51 on the 31.05.18

Hi I am just making this recipe and wondering what to do with the lemon juice? Thank you.

Posted by anna. at 9:42 on the 04.08.18

Hi ,just read this recipe -exactly what we make in india – for centuries -nice to know its spreading — indian food with new names — the source is indian cooking —

Posted by Judith Clowes at 3:18 on the 09.02.20

My foodie niece sent me this recipe as part of a vegetarian challenge we have going with her mother and I could not believe how delicious it was – even my carnivore husband gave it 8 out of 10! Now that I have all the spices in my store cupboard we shall definitely be eating this again and again. Many thanks.

Posted by Helen at 7:14 on the 17.04.20

Hello, can I freeze the main part of this?

Posted by Emma at 8:04 on the 20.04.20

I am just making this for the first time – it looks great. However the turmeric in the ingredients list is not used in the recipe… please help!

Posted by Cee Reilly at 2:30 on the 07.06.20

This is now a staple in our home! It’s the best ever. Thanks. ❤️

Posted by Charles at 12:26 on the 04.01.21

This was delicious. A really surprising amount of layers of flavour and texture where all the small things like the sweet potato and coconut really elevated the dish. Will definitely make this again.

Posted by Nicola at 7:26 on the 12.01.21

This was absolutely delicious! The recipe doesn’t say when to add the turmeric and the cinnamon though so I added them at the last minute. It made a lovely snow day recipe!

Posted by maria andrea santichio at 6:19 on the 19.02.21

Anna, you are the best! I live in Brazil, found just by chance your book translated to Portuguese and it was a blessing… thank you!!!!

Posted by Julie Saint-Clair at 11:43 on the 06.05.21

I have made this recipe today for lunch, on my online school break and it was delicious. My father has even loved it, which is super rare. Thank you so much for your blog !

Posted by Nush at 8:49 on the 11.09.21

Hi Anna,
This recipe has been on my to do list for months and I’m finally making it tonight! Do the lentils need to be soaked beforehand?
Many thanks!

Posted by Bill at 2:56 on the 01.02.22

Hi Anna
The supermarket has both Ground Cinnamon and Sweet Ground Cinnamon – which is best for this recipe and what is each used for?
I ended up buying the Ground Cinnamon but it doesn’t smell or taste like the Cinnamon I’ve used before.

Posted by Anastasia at 1:07 on the 08.04.23

Thank you!!!! I love this dhal so much!!

Posted by Charlotte at 9:15 on the 22.07.23

It’s true. This is THE best Dhal. Super grateful but not as grateful as my husband who got how to this after a 3hr surf <3

Posted by Charlotte at 9:17 on the 22.07.23

Above should say ‘home’

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