I made this dal as one of the sides for my Chicken Vesuvius. You can use other lentils but I like to use red ones because they cook so quickly. I made it less spicy than usual as I wanted it to complement the chicken dish, not compete with it, but it’s easily spiced up with the addition of a freshly chopped red chilli. If you don’t have curry leaves, don’t worry, it will still taste wonderful. And it freezes beautifully which is why I always make way more than I need.
1. In a large saucepan add tbsp of oil and cook the chopped onion until it’s transluscent, around 10-15 minutes. Then add the ground spices and tomato paste and cook for a further couple of minutes. Now add the washed lentils, tomatoes and salt and combine in the glossy onion spice mixture.
2. Finally add 1200ml (5 cups) of water and bring to a simmer. Cook uncovered for about 30 – 45 minutes, or until the lentils begin to break down.
3. While the lentils are simmering, in a frying pan, warm tbsp vegetable oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and the mustard seeds. Cover the pan and wait briefly until the mustard seeds begin to pop. Then add the finely chopped onion and the curry leaves and cook, stirring to prevent the leaves from burning, until lightly browned.
4. Once the lentils have broken down, add the coconut milk and then the curry leaf mixture. Cook for another 10 minutes or so, until the flavours have melded.
5. You can easily cook this the day before and keep it in the fridge though you may need to slacken it with further coconut milk as it tends to thicken as it sits.
I like to serve raita alongside any curry dish. This one uses equal weights of fresh pineapple and thick Greek-style yoghurt (200g each) with small fresh, finely chopped and de-seeded red chilli, sea salt and chilli powder.