A hot bowl of dhal really does work wonders when you’re feeling a little low, beset by the sniffles or just exhausted by the pace of modern life.
3 tbsp of ghee or vegetable oil
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 1 fresh green chilli, finely chopped
- 1 tsp of grated fresh root ginger
1 small cinnamon stick
- 4 green cardamom pods, bruised
- 500g of red lentils, rinsed
1.2 litres of water or vegetable/ chicken stock
1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes (or 400g of fresh tomatoes, roughly chopped)
2 tbsp of ghee or vegetable oil
- 1 tsp of curry powder or garam masala
- 1 tsp of black mustard or nigella seeds
- 1 tsp of ground turmeric
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1 tsp of coriander seeds
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Handful of baby spinach
½ a small unwaxed lemon
1. Warm one tablespoon of the ghee or oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the garlic, chilli and ginger and fry for 30 seconds, then add the cinnamon and cardamom and fry for a further 30 seconds until aromatic.
2. Add the lentils and pour over the water or stock. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, skimming off any scum if necessary.
3. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with a wooden spoon if using tinned. Cook for 25–30 minutes, or until the lentils are really soft and the mixture has thickened. Add more liquid if it needs it and season to taste.
4. Remove from the heat and discard the cinnamon and cardamom pods.
5. Heat the remaining ghee or oil in a frying pan over a low-medium heat. Add the remaining spices and fry for a minute or so until they smell fragrant and the seeds pop. Tip the spices into the lentils, stir and taste. Adjust the seasoning if necessary, divide into six to eight portions and freeze or chill. When you want to eat a portion, reheat it gently, wilt the spinach in the lentils, top with an egg or two, cooked the way you like it, and serve with bread and a squeeze of lemon juice to cut through the rich spices.
Variations: Try adding curry leaves, coconut milk or cream, shallots, onions, or herbs such as coriander.
Recipe courtesy of Solo: The Joy of Cooking for One By Signe Johansen (Bluebird, £16.99)