Lemon, Tomato & Cardamom Dhal
We make dhal at least once a week through the colder months of the year. This one, though, has a fresher feeling that means I’d be as happy eating it on a summer eve as I would a winter night. If you make this in autumn or winter you could leave out the fresh tomatoes and replace with some grated squash for the last 10 minutes of cooking.
For the dhal:
2 tablespoons coconut oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped (de-seeded if you like)
1 green chilli, finely chopped (de-seeded if you like)
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 tablespoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
The seeds from 6 cardamom pods, ground
200g dried split red lentils, washed
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
500ml vegetable stock
100g baby spinach, washed
4 ripe vine tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 unwaxed lemons
16 fresh curry leaves (optional)
1 teaspoon coconut oil (optional)
For the topping:
100g toasted cashew nuts
1 green chilli (de-seeded if you like)
½ unwaxed lemon
A small bunch of coriander
Heat the coconut oil in a deep saucepan and fry the onions over a medium heat with a pinch of salt for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until they start to soften. Add the chillies and cook for another couple of minutes until everything in the pan is soft and fragrant. Add the cumin, coriander and mustard seeds and when the mustard seeds start to pop, stir in the ground turmeric and cardamom.
Quickly add the lentils, coconut milk and stock to the pan. Bring the dhal to the boil, then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes until the lentils have softened and are cooked through.
Now make your herb and cashew topping. Roughly chop the cashews and green chilli as well as the whole lemon half, discarding any pips, then add the coriander and chop the lot together with a good pinch of salt to make a rough lemon salsa.
Back to the dhal: stir through the spinach and the chopped tomatoes so the spinach wilts a little, then taste it and add the juice of up to 2 lemons, depending on your preference. Add salt and pepper to taste. If you are using the curry leaves, melt about a teaspoon of coconut oil in a frying pan and when the surface is shimmering, fry the leaves for about 15 seconds to crisp up.
Spoon the dhal into bowls, top with the curry leaves and cashews and serve with rice or warm roti breads.