In Indian cuisine, one dish is preeminent, and shares an umbilical-like connect with most Indians, the humble dal. Although a dictionary defines dal as a split pulse, in India it means using dried beans and peas as well as a thick puree-like stew or soup made from lentils. Of the many types of dal made in India, each prepared in different ways in different regions, and while they all have an earthy creaminess, the fragrant tempering of spices used in each is what gives them distinctly unique flavours.
During winter months, we beg for warm hearty meals when the nights are cold. There are many varieties of dahl, each delicious, so to create yet another variation, I’ve added cauliflower florets, chunks of dried apricots, wilted spinach and toasty almonds. The lentil and cauliflower dahl is easily made after a long day at work, a few minutes preparation and 30 minutes cooking time while you relax and the meal is ready. I chose to use the small red lentils, but yellow lentils will do equally fine. Instead of curry powder, I use fresh curry leaves as their flavour is superior, yet if you can’t buy them curry powder will suffice. The spices, cumin and mustard seeds, whole chillies and curry leaves are initially roasted. After the lentils are roasted until glossy, coriander, smoked paprika and salt are added. Cauliflower florets and chunks of dried apricots have been paired with the lentils to add a mild, nutty flavour and hints of sweetness. While wilted spinach provides the necessary greens we all need for our daily diet.
· Lentils are an excellent natural source of folate and manganese.
· They are an economical source of protein.
· Evidence suggests they protect heart health.
LENTIL & CAULIFLOWER DAHL
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
12 curry leaves OR 1 tablespoon curry (to taste)
2 small green chillies, whole
2 cups red split lentils
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon Himalayan salt
5 cups (1 litre) water
1½ cups cauliflower chunks
¼ cup dried apricots, diced
½ cup almonds, toasted and sliced
Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over a medium low heat. Add cumin and mustard seeds, curry leaves and chillies, and fry until the cumin seeds begin browning. Add the lentils, stirring for 2 minutes until glossy. Add spices, salt and mix. Pour in the water, add cauliflower and apricots, and cook uncovered for 25 minutes until the lentils are cooked and creamy. Add ½ cup water of you want the dahl runnier in texture. Add the spinach, stir well and cook a further 5 minutes. Remove whole chillies. Serve hot with steamed rice, topped with toasted almond slivers. Enjoy!