Dahl makes a fantastic dinner when you are in a hurry; don’t want to spend long in the kitchen; or want something that is cheap but nutritious to make. This is flavoursome food that you can make as spicy as you like. Served with rice and papadums it’s delicious, but if you want a little more substance than just lentils, the addition of fried eggplant is what you need.
I’ve always made dahl as an accompaniment to a curry. It’s a simple and economical way to make a curry go further when you are feeding a large family. And the reality is, you don’t need to eat that much chicken, beef or lamb. But recently we’ve been ditching the curry and just having dahl. It’s a great vegetarian dinner option especially when you incorporate other vegetables.
I recently tried recreating a recipe that I made (and thought I liked) many years ago. It was essentially vegetables cooked in a dahl sauce, but I had all sorts of problems. Everything became too stodgy, the dahl component tended to stick to the bottom of the pan, and quite simply it wasn’t very good. Initially I used yellow split peas as the base, which didn’t work too well, before switching to red lentils, which were marginally better. But the real issue was combining the vegetables and the dahl in the one pot.
Not to be thwarted by disasters, the solution was to make a pot of dahl using red lentils, adding fried cubes of eggplant just before serving. It worked a treat, and lifted our much loved dahl recipe to new heights. This has become a regular weekday dinner. We love it. Enjoy!
- 1 small eggplant, chopped into 1cm cubes
- olive oil to fry the eggplant
- 225g red lentils
- 1 onion, roughly chopped
- 1 ripe tomato, roughly chopped
- 250 ml coconut milk
- 2 green chillies, chopped
- ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 1 onion, very finely chopped
- 10 curry leaves
- basmati rice
- Put the lentils in a heavy-based saucepan with 2 cups water.
- Add the roughly chopped onion, tomato, coconut milk, green chilli, turmeric, cumin and coriander, and bring to the boil.
- Simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are cooked to a soft mush. This will take about 25 minutes. If all the water has evaporated before the lentils are cooked, add ½ cup boiling water.
- In a large frying pan, heat some olive oil and fry the cubes of eggplant until soft and browned on all sides. Set aside.
- For the final seasoning, heat the oil in a small saucepan over low heat.
- Add the cumin seeds and the black mustard seeds, and allow to pop.
- Add the finely chopped onion and curry leaves and and fry over low heat until the onion is golden brown.
- Pour the seasoned onions into the simmering lentils. Season with salt, to taste and cook for another 5 minutes.
- Add the eggplant cubes to the dahl, stir gently and serve with rice and papadums.