I only discovered the diversity of lentils Spring last year. Having only tried lentils once before, in a soup dish, around 15 years ago which I dismissed as bland and dull, I promptly vowed never to try this again. This was until I began to make a number of recipes from Summers Under the Tamarind Tree which I quite enjoyed. I then made Meera Sodha's Daily Dal which was heavenly: soupy, thick and comforting, I was hooked. I've been making my own version of daily dal in now my regular use of lentils, but as with everything in life, fancied a change. That change came way of the critically acclaimed, Simon Hopkinson Second Helpings of Roast Chicken, which I picked up for the barginous £1 from Poundland. The spinach and coconut dal instantly appealed to me, an aromatic change to my usual dal. The dal is thick and works perfectly with naan bread to mop up it all up.
250g onions peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp cumin seed, roasted
1 tsp whole black mustard seeds, roasted
4 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder
200g split red lentils
400ml coconut milk
3-4 thick slices of fresh ginger, unpeeled
450g fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
250g fresh eat spinach, trimmed and roughly chopped
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 large lime
1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander
2 tbsp freshly chopped mint
1 tsp salt
Serve with naan or pitta bread
Fry the onions in 50g of the butter until pale golden. Add the whole spices and half the garlic and continue to cook gently for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the turmeric and chilli powder until well blended and cook for a couple of minutes Tip in the lentils and add the water, coconut milk, ginger, tomatoes and spinach. Bring up to a summer, add the pepper and cook very gently, stirring occasionally, for about 30-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender and have all but dissolved into the liquid.
Remove the pan from the heat. Melt the remaining butter. When it starts to froth, throw in the rest of the garlic and stir vigorously until it states to take on a little colour, and the butter starts to smell nutty. Immediately tip in the lentils and stir in (there will be spluttering so watch out). Add the lime juice, the coriander, mint and salt to taste. Cover with a lid and leave to mellow for 10 minutes before serving, remembering to remove the slices of ginger before you do so. Eat with hot and fresh flat bread, such as naan or failing that, pitta bread.