dhal
lentil dhal with crispy kale

A well-made dhal is a complete treasure; it is a bowl of soft gold. A dhal can warm us like a fire, with its spice; and it can soothe and comfort us, like a favourite blanket might have done in the past. This dhal is nothing more than a few handfuls of red lentils that have been gently simmered with some lovely spices. However, it always amazes me how much depth and flavour it has. I like to serve piping-hot bowlfuls with crispy kale (its light, brittle texture works so well here), warm boiled eggs, and some fermented cabbage (page 170). Together they make a quite wonderful winter supper.

Serves 
4 - 6
Ingredients 

1 bunch of curly kale, stalks removed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon coconut oil

1 onion, sliced

3 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced

1⁄2 thumb-sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated

1 hot red chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced

1⁄2 tablespoon cumin seeds, coarsely crushed

1⁄2 tablespoon coriander seeds, coarsely crushed

2 cardamom pods, bashed

2 teaspoons black mustard seeds

2 teaspoons black onion seeds

1 tablespoon curry powder

250g (9oz) red lentils

1 litre (35fl oz) well-flavoured vegetable stock

soft-boiled eggs, natural yoghurt, toasted seeds  and fresh chilli, to serve

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method 

Heat the oven to 110°C/225°F/gas mark 1⁄2. First, make the crispy kale. Wash the kale leaves, then spin them in a salad spinner until they’re really dry. Place the leaves in a bowl with the olive oil and a good pinch of salt. Using your hands, mix the leaves well to coat in the oil. Line a baking tray with baking parchment, then arrange the kale in an even layer on the tray and place it in the oven. Bake for 25–30 minutes, turning the individual leaves once or twice during cooking, until they are nice and crisp. Remove the leaves from the oven and allow to cool.

Heat a large, heavy-based pan over a low–medium heat. Add the coconut oil and, when hot, add the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli, cumin, coriander, cardamom, black mustard and onion seeds, and curry powder. Cook, stirring regularly, for 8–10 minutes, until the onion is soft but not coloured.

Place the lentils in a sieve and give them a quick rinse, then add them to the pan with the onion mixture and fry them for a few moments. Add the stock, bring the liquid to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring regularly, for 35–40 minutes, until the lentils are soft and the dhal has thickened. If things look a little dry at any time, add a splash more stock or water. Season the dhal well with salt and pepper, remove from the heat and bring to the table. To serve, spoon the dhal into warm bowls and top with the kale. I love this with a soft boiled egg, a spoonful of natural yoghurt, and some toasted seeds sprinkled over.