Daal is one of my comfort foods. I love how versatile it is, with no one of my daals ever tasting the same. I’m often asked for the recipe, but I can rarely relay the recipe exactly as I add whatever takes my fancy at the time. My simple daal however is the reliable base of all my creations, and the ingredients rarely deviate from below. Daal shouldn’t be complicated and is rarely spiced in India, I eat my simple daal all the time as the simplicity together with the taste is just mind blowing. It is also incredibly cheap! I have fed a party of 12 a homemade thali of daal, spiced chickpea and squash curry, pilau brown rice, raitha and pita bread with leftovers for under £10! I have added variations underneath to give you an idea of extras and combinations I add to my daal. Experiment, enjoy and let me know how you get on! This recipe roughly serves 3-4.
- 300g/ 1.5 cups Split Red Lentils
- 1-2 tbsp Coconut Oil (or oil of your choice)
- 1 Onion
- 5 cloves Garlic
- 1 tsp Tumeric
- 750ml/3.2 cups water
- Sea Salt
- Finely chop the onion and garlic.
- Heat the oil in a medium sized saucepan and add the onion. Fry for 5-6 minutes, stirring until the onion has softened and has become semi-transparent.
- Add the garlic and fry for around 2 minutes until it has softened and has become fragrant.
- Add the turmeric, stir for 30 seconds, then add the lentils, water and a good pinch of salt. The key to a good daal is enough seasoning so don’t be shy.
- Cover your daal, turn the heat down and leave to bubble for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
You can mix and match any of the variations, you really can’t go wrong with daal so experiment.
- Add a tbsp butter or ghee 5 minutes before the daal is ready, it will add a lovely richness.
- OR Only add 500ml / 2 cups water at stage 4 and replace it with a can of coconut milk.
- Add a couple of handfuls of fresh or thawed frozen spinach a couple of minutes before the daal is ready. I also like to add fresh quartered tomatoes at this point too.
- I find the spice mix panch phoran excellent in daals. Each shop will sell a slight variation of the spices used but they often include cumin, fenugreek, mustard, nigella and fennel seeds. Add the spices to the hot oil right at the beginning of cooking . They will become fragrant after 2-3 minutes of cooking. Continue with the above recipe at stage 2.
- I find asofatida or amchoor (dried mango powder) add a different flavour to daals, but these are harder to get hold of. Asofatida has an oniony taste, and amchoor is quite sour.
- Add half a fresh lemon to the daal about half way through stage 5. The lemon will heat and release it’s juices into the daal. Give it a gentle squeeze when you remove it from the pot before serving and mix the juice into the lentils.
- Adding fresh coriander and/ or curry leaves can really liven up a daal. Add coriander right at the end to flavour the daal, or add curry leaves at stage 4.