My parents had very kindly given us some curry for Saturday night the other weekend (they do this a lot and it's greatly appreciated!). Anyway - I decided to cook up a big pot of dhal/lentils to have as a side dish. I tend to cook it in larger batches because it freezes well and always comes in handy. My dad always has a whole army of dhals in their freezer for a rainy day...
The ingredients (apart from the lentils of course) are pretty flexible and can be omitted or modified according to personal taste. There are no hard and fast rules and apart from the lentils you can pretty much add in whatever you fancy, make it as spicy as you like and alter the consistency to suit - it's really a free for all! We have lentils quite a lot as a side dish with curry or with rice and roast meat or fish.
Very roughly the ingredients are...
So - for approx. 3-4 double portions (depending on how greedy you are) I use:-
8oz lentils (I use red) - no need to pre-soak but I usually give the lentils a few rinses
1-2 onions - sliced
4 -5 cloves garlic - chopped/sliced
small/medium piece of ginger chopped/sliced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp nigella seeds (optional)
however many chillies you like - chopped (I use 1-2)
1 carton/tin chopped or plum tomatoes
fresh or frozen chopped or leaf spinach - as much or little as you like - (forgot to take spinach pic but I only used frozen leaf from Sainsburys)
good dash of vinegar or lemon juice
1-2 vege stock cube (optional - and I forget to photograph - rubbish aren't I?)
fresh coriander chopped
salt to taste
2-3 tbsp oil (again - not on photo)
There are a couple of ways of cooking. The easy way (which mum says my grandpa used to adopt) is to fry the onions, garlic, ginger, mustard and nigella seeds, chillies, turmeric and cumin. Throw in the lentils, tomatoes, spinach, vinegar, crumble in the stock cube and add enough water to cover a few cm over the lentils or according to instruction on the pack - I tend to add extra water as I prefer a thinner consistency. Bring it all to the boil, cover and simmer for 30ish minutes or leave simmering until you're ready for it. Add chopped fresh coriander towards the end.
The other way (which is what I did) is to make a soup first by cooking the lentils as above in the water with approx half onion, garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin, tomatoes and vinegar, spinach, and crumbled stock cube, again adding coriander towards the end. In a separate frying pan, fry the rest of the sliced onion (add extra if you like), chillies with mustard and nigella seeds to make a seasoning and tip it all into the lentils. We usually fry this lot until onions are crispy and brown. Mix before serving.
You can also fry up some extra sliced garlic, add curry leaves, mushroom, courgette in the seasoning or you can add extra vege to your dhal when boiling - mum makes a pretty smooth pot and dad adds chunky pieces of carrot, celery, broccoli - whatever really!
What would you serve it up with?