D is for .. dhal – spiced red lentil dhal with chickpeas and spinach

Dhal is a staple food in Pakistani, Sri Lankan, Bangladeshi, Nepalese and Indian cuisines. It is one of the most beautiful global comfort foods known – it’s deliciously spiced and complex but warming, soothing and satisfying all at the same time. Dhal is usually served as a side-dish, but I’ve been known, on more than one occasion to eat it as a main. Dhal is perfect for cool Autumn nights and rainy days. Leftover dhal can be added to extra leftover vegetables and used as a filling for currypuff-like pastries, perfect for snacks, school lunches and party food.

Lentils and split peas are a crucial part of vegetarian lifestyles; they are high in protein, nutrient dense and super cheap. The humble lentil is packed full of soluble and insoluble fibre – necessary for a healthy and functional digestive tract, the trace mineral molybdenum – a cofactor for 4 different enzymatic reactions including the breakdown of sulfur-amino-acids, folate – important for adequate brain and spinal cord function, copper – for promoting strong body tissues, cell energy transactions and maintaining blood volume, plus protein which is imperative for muscle function, DNA synthesis and feeling fuller for longer. In other words – Don’t underestimate the little lentil ❤

Red Lentil Dhal

Ingredients:
– 1 1/4 cups of red lentils
– 2 medium onions, diced
– 2 cloves of garlic
– 2cm piece of ginger
– 1 tablespoon of finely chopped coriander stalks
– 1/2 a long red chilli (seeds in or out – up to you) **optional
– 1 cup of halved cherry tomatoes
– 1 can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
– 2 handfuls of baby spinach, lightly rinsed
– 2 tablespoons of ghee
– 1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
– 1 teaspoon of turmeric
– 1 teaspoon of good-quality curry powder
– 1 cinnamon stick
– 1 bay leaf
– 1/2 teaspoon of garam masala
– pinch of ground cumin
– 1 teaspoon of salt

1. WASH your lentils – 3-4 times until the water runs clear.
2. In a mortar and pestle smash up the garlic, ginger, coriander and chilli – it doesn’t need to be a fine paste, rustic is fine.
3. In a medium sized pot add the ghee and onion, and cook off until the onions start gaining some gorgeous colour.
4. Add the salt, garlic, ginger, coriander and chilli paste + dry spices and toast off until fragrant.
5. Throw in your tomatoes, bay leaf and lentils and top with 3cups of water.
6. Bring to a gentle simmer and cook until the lentils are soft, and not chalky. Make sure to stir regularly. Your dhal will be ready when it is rich and saucy not runny, and the lentils are soft.
7. Throw in your chickpeas and spinach and cook until the chickpeas are hot and spinach has wilted.
8.. Serve hot with rice, hot charred flat bread, chappati or roti, fresh coriander, lime wedges and natural yoghurt.

Serves 4.
– What you garnish your dhal with is completely up to you – I prefer wild rice over white rice because of it’s texture and nuttiness. I love spicy food, so I serve it with extra fresh chilli on top, as well as fried shallots for a little added crunch. The lime really brightens this dish up and makes things interesting too 😀

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