A wonderful dish for a crowd, and if you use vegetable stock it’s fully vegetarian. Make a quarter of the amount of just the dal for a quick weeknight dinner for two, or go the whole hog with all the sides if entertaining. In India the dal is often a side dish, but here it is very happily the main event. And actually these sides are quick and easy and really do make a difference. You can always add a serving of rice as well if you like.
1 tbsp coconut oil
2 onions, chopped
5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1-3 bird’s eye chillies (depending on how hot you like it), deseeded and chopped
20 curry leaves
large bunch of coriander, stalks chopped and leaves kept whole
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 large aubergine, cubed
handful of dried apricots, chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
350g lentils (use a mixture of red, orange and yellow and soak and drain them according to the packet beforehand)
squeeze of honey (optional)
salt and pepper
FOR THE GREEN CHUTNEY
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
5 tbsp yoghurt
small bunch of coriander
small bunch of mint
1 lime, zest and juice
FOR THE CRISPY CAULIFLOWER
1 good-sized whole cauliflower
drizzle of olive oil
1-2 tsp each coriander and cumin seeds, crushed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
FOR THE DOSA
100g chickpea (gram) flour
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
a little coconut oil
FOR THE CRUNCHY SALAD
½ cucumber, peeled and seeds scooped out, then roughly chopped
1 red chilli, sliced
2 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, diced
handful of mint and coriander leaves
juice of 1 lime
good drizzle of olive oil
FOR THE TARKA TOPPING
1 tbsp coconut oil
4 cloves garlic, sliced into thin chips
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 large red chilli, thinly sliced
small bunch of curry leaves
1 First make the chutney. Put the coconut into a small bowl and just cover with boiling water. Leave for about 20 minutes to cool and soften, then drain and add to a blender with the remaining chutney ingredients. Blitz until smooth. (This is best served after a few hours resting in the fridge.)
2 Now for the dal: heat the coconut oil in a large pan and cook the onions, the ginger, the garlic and cinnamon over a low heat until the onions are translucent. Increase the heat then add the cumin and coriander seeds, bird’s eye chillies, curry leaves and chopped coriander stalks and fry for a good 5 minutes, stirring to stop anything catching.
3 Next add the turmeric, aubergine and apricots and cook for a further 5 minutes, allowing the aubergine to caramelise a little, followed by the tomatoes, coconut milk, stock and drained soaked lentils. Leave to simmer for 45 minutes, then taste and season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of honey, if desired.
4 Meanwhile, make the crispy cauliflower. Preheat the oven to 220C/gas 7. Put the whole cauliflower into a large bowl and toss with the olive oil, coriander and cumin seeds, garlic, salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes until nice and crispy. (Alternatively you can break the cauliflower into florets before roasting – just as delicious!).
5 While the cauliflower is in the oven, prepare the dosa by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl until combined. Heat a wide frying pan with a little oil (we use coconut oil) over a medium heat. When hot, add a small ladle of the mixture and tilt the pan quickly, to spread the mixture around. Once it starts to crisp and has bubbles (after a few minutes), flip it and cook the other side until crispy. Repeat until you have used up all the batter.
6 Mix together the ingredients for the crunchy salad in a bowl, drizzle with the lime juice and oil and season.
7 When you are almost ready to serve, make up a tarka for the top of the dal. Melt the coconut oil in a pan and add the garlic, cumin seeds, nigella seeds, chilli and curry leaves. Cook over a low heat, stirring, until the garlic turns golden. Add this sizzling to the top of the dal.
8 Scatter the dal with coriander leaves and serve with the dosa, crispy cauliflower, chutney and salad.