Coconut vegetable daal

Who doesn’t love daal? That winter warmer, that potluck classic, that simple-to-make yet complex palette of flavours – it’s the comfort dish that’ll put a sunny smile on the saddest of faces.

Daal deserves so much more lovin’ than most people give it, so my recipe is packed full of complex flavours and textures whose marriage of convenience works out great even when reheated as a quick-fix leftovers meal. This is best served with either basmati rice or brown rice, or piping hot freshly cooked flatbread.

Here’s how to make sure you get invited to every potluck party in town…

Flavour: Savoury & complex spice

Serves: 4-6 as a main meal, depending how hungry you are, or what else you’re having on the side

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon unflavoured oil (I tend to use sunflower)
  • 1 medium brown onion, finely sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely minced (see here for amateur tip on how to mince garlic)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 birds eye chillies, finely chopped (or as much or as little as you like – although daal is best when subtly spiced, not roaring with heat)
  • knob of ginger, finely minced – I use about half as much ginger as garlic, but you can adjust according to your taste)
  • 2 tablespoons of your favourite curry powder
  • 1 tablespoon tamarind paste (or a chunk of dried tamarind pulp soaked in water for a few minutes)
  • 3 large tomatoes, peeled and chopped (see here for how)
  • 1 large potato, diced (I leave the skin on)
  • 1 large sweet potato, diced (I peel the skin off)
  • 1 cup split red lentils (you could always use more if you like, but I like to hero the vegetables and use the lentils mainly as a thickener that adds a satisfying mouthfeel to every bite)
  • 1 cup diced pumpkin
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets (break the cauliflower into small florets so they aren’t too much bigger than the diced veggies)
  • 1 cup diced carrot
  • 3 cups water (you may need more of less of this, so use your discretion, and aim to finish your daal with the consistency you’re happy with)
  • Coconut cream (you can use half a can, or two tablespoons of powdered coconut cream – I find the latter much simpler to use in terms of always getting the quantity and depth of coconut flavour I’m after)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Small bunch of coriander, chopped coarsely

Directions:

  1. Fry onions in oil until translucent over a medium-high heat
  2. Add garlic and ginger, stir in, and cook for another minute
  3. Add the potatoes, stir, and fry for another two minutes
  4. Add the salt, chillies, and curry powder; stir in, and cook for another minute
  5. Turn the heat right up, add your chopped tomatoes, stir in, and cook for another two minutes until tomatoes are nice and mushy
  6. Add the sweet potato, pumpkin, and tamarind paste, stir in, and cook for another two minutes
  7. Chuck the lentils in, add a cup of water, and bring to the boil
  8. Once your daal is boiling, reduce the heat to medium
  9. Toss in your carrots and cauliflower, add your coconut cream/powder, and allow your daal to gently cook through – adding water half a cup at a time – until all the vegetables are tender, and the consistency is thick and hearty, but still runny enough to need ladling into a bowl, not spooning onto a plate
  10. Once it’s cooked and the consistency you want, take it off the heat, and stir in your lemon juice and half of your chopped coriander – this is what adds that final complex flavour kick that’ll have your dinner guests begging for the recipe 😉
  11. Serve with rice or flatbread, sprinkled with the rest of the coriander

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