I’ve been making a delicious version of this vegetarian and allergy friendly dal for years. This week I changed the recipe to keep it more friendly for children and cook in one pot. I was amazed how much the boys enjoyed dal, it’s now going on our quick and warming dinner list. I did try making chapati to go with this but I think I over cooked them and used the wrong flour. Everyone loved them with the dal so at least they were enjoyed.
If you make a double quantity it is ideal to re-heat another day, maybe bulked out with a few other Indian style dishes with rice. With only a few store cupboard ingredients you’ll always have something really tasty less then an hour away.
First you’ll need to mix a little jar of five spice blend. This will last at least a year if your spices are fresh.
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fenugreek seeds (you can normally find these in larger supermarkets)
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 tsp nigella seeds
There is no need to roast, crush or grind these spices. They also have the added benefit of giving tonnes of flavour without being too hot for little tongues.
Now you have your spice mix you can make this dal regularly. I’ve even given it as a Christmas gift with a pretty ribbon and label.
To make the dal:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 and a half tsp five spice blend
1 onion sliced thinly
1 cup red lentils – rinsed
4 cups water
Salt to taste
In a deep pan (it needs to be large as it will boil over) fry the spices in the oil for 1 minute shaking regularly. The mustard seeds may pop!
Next add half of the sliced onion and stir until the onion starts to colour.
Add the lentils to the pan and stir into the onions and spice before adding the water. Add the other half of the onion to the lentils.
Keep the heat high and boil for 5 minutes, stir every so often.
Lower the heat and pop a lid on the pan, simmer gently for 40 minutes. You’ll need to stir regularly and keep half an eye on it in case it boils over.
Remove from the heat and allow to stand, with the lid off for 2 minutes. Grab yourself a potato masher, yes you did read that correctly! Mash the mixture roughly to break up the lentils and onion. Please don’t be tempted to use a blender, you want a textured dal rather than a smooth soup.
I add half a teaspoon of salt if serving to adults, just a pinch if it’s for children.
You could serve with Indian breads, rice, bombay potatoes or my favourite, spinach bhaji.