Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Milk Inspired By Anna Jones
When people are hungry and tired the last thing they want is to spend hours in the kitchen cooking something laborious and fanciful. They want to be comforted. They are seeking solace from the storm of the stress of life and food is the shelter they seek.
At the end of a long day, a banquet of Michelin-starred food is not what you yearn for. Such a meal could be perfect and could feature a soupcon of something exotic and ambrosial and a dash of some never-before-tasted-perfect concoction but even so, it could never compete with something comforting and familiar in those moments of need. You don’t want new and exciting in those moments, you want the edible equivalent of a warm enveloping hug. You want to take a bite and feel safe and secure.
Don’t get me wrong Michelin-starred, three-course meals have their place. But their place is often a special occasion when you are feeling flush and full of life and they really aren’t of much use to those feeling low and world-weary. For those, a big bowl of spaghetti bolognese, a toasted cheese sandwich, a steaming bowl of mashed potato or homemade soup is often the answer.
Of course, in the interest of transparency, I have to admit that glutton as I am I would never turn down a Michelin-starred meal in a restaurant but all I know is they would be hard-pushed to beat my mama’s chicken pie.
In my early twenties when I was a tearful mess having broken up with the man that would later become my husband, although I, of course, wasn’t to know that yet, one of my dearest friends came round to mine with a tray of homemade macaroni and cheese. She ran me a bath as she heated it through in the oven and we ate it with lashings of ketchup, sitting cross-legged on the sofa in front of Pride and Prejudice. (The Colin Firth version, for those wondering). I felt so loved in that moment and had no idea how powerful macaroni and cheese could really be.
Comfort food is the kind of food people really love to eat. It’s often but not always the classics from our childhood. If you aren’t cooking the food yourself then you probably don’t care at all about the length of time it takes to prepare, but if you are cooking it, then time is normally well and truly of the essence.
Enter Dal. Specifically, this red lentil dal with coconut milk.
Dal is the perfect example of the joy of a few simple ingredients thrown together providing such solace to my hunger and such comfort to my soul. If you’ve never made dahl before you are in for a complete treat. It’s delicious. Mushy, thick, flavoursome, filling yet not stodgy and a cinch to pull together. Perfect for quick week night meals, and delicious enough to serve to guests at a dinner party. It also freezes beautifully which is comforting to know you will never be more than moments away from a defrosted pot of dahl.
People like to serve dal with rice which you can of course do, but I don’t tend to. If making for myself I just love bowls of it with roasted tomatoes plonked on the top and a drizzle of yoghurt. If I have friends over, I serve with chapatti or naan bread and perhaps a little rice if I am so inclined.
Like with all my recipes this is not prescriptive and more often than not it’s a case of chucking in whatever spices I have lying around and like the sound of. If you are new to dal and new to cooking with lots of different spices then try with the following and once you’ve got a feel for it you can go freestyle. This one has garlic, ginger and lots of creamy coconut milk to make it extra comforting.
I do really recommend the tomatoes, they are excellent.
Is a lentil dal and lentil soup the same thing?
Lentil soup and dal share similarities but have some differences. Dal is an Indian dish made primarily from lentils, split peas, or beans, often seasoned with spices like turmeric, cumin, and coriander. It’s typically thicker than a soup and can vary in consistency from soupy to quite thick, depending on the region and recipe. Lentil soup, on the other hand, is a more generalised term for a soup made primarily from lentils, often cooked with vegetables, herbs, and spices.
Is dal a curry?
Dal is not always considered a curry, although it shares some similarities with curry in terms of its use of spices. Curries encompass a broader range of dishes, including those with various bases like tomato, coconut milk, or yoghurt, and can include meats, vegetables, or legumes like lentils or chickpeas. While some dals might be referred to as curries, not all dals fall within the curry category.
Is lentil dal good for you?
Lentil dal is indeed good for you! Lentils are a fantastic source of plant-based protein, fibre, and various vitamins and minerals. They are low in fat and high in nutrients, making them a great addition to your meals each week. Dals are often considered nutritious and a staple in many vegetarian and vegan diets due to their high protein content, which vegetarians can lack.
- Prep Time: 10
- Cook Time: 45
- Total Time: 55 minutes
- Yield: 4 1x
- 400g red lentils
- 2 tbsp tumeric
- ¼ cup creamy coconut milk
- 1 red onion, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 red chilli, diced
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsp ground ginger
- handful of coriander stalks, chopped
- salt and pepper
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 punnet cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1tsp dried chilli flakes
- salt and pepper
- To serve:
- 1 large handful of coriander. Leaves, roughly chopped
- 4 tablespoons Greek yoghurt
- Place the tomato halves on a baking tray with the coconut oil, chilli flakes and salt and pepper. Cook in the oven at about 160c for about 40 minutes. Check them half way through and baste if necessary.
- Fry the chopped onion gently in the olive oil until soft. Add the garlic and chilli and all the spices plus the stalks of the coriander. Season well.
- Rinse the lentils and then place them in a large pan and cover them with plenty of cold water. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and simmer. Cook according to the packet. My packet said to cook for 45 minutes but at 35 minutes they were soft to the bite and about to fall apart so I drained them then and there. Keep tasting and judge for yourself when they are done. You want them very soft and mushy but not disintegrated. Once drained, put them back in the pan and stir through the coconut milk and add the onion and spice mixture.
- To serve scoop into bowls and top with the tomatoes, Greek yoghurt and the chopped coriander leaves.
Even if eating for one I would always make the full amount and eat the rest the next day or pop in the freezer. You never know when you might want it.