Day 2: delicious dhal. When I was a teenager I earned extra pocket money babysitting. One evening there was a pot of green stuff bubbling ominously on the stove when I came in. I was expected to feed it to the two little girls, aged about one and two, for their tea. And to have some myself. Lentils? Where were the fish fingers and baked beans that were the children’s go-to foods of the time in the UK? And what about some chocolate biscuits for the hardworking sitter once the babies were asleep? It wasn’t until years later that I overcame my prejudice against ugly food. Even now I am tempted to go over the top with a tomato disguise. But who cares about looks when you can have such depth – of flavour?!
200 gr lentils (orange, green, or a mixture)
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 red chilli, chopped and with the seeds removed (unless you want it really hot)
5 cm ginger root, half chopped into matchsticks, half grated
2 cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
juice of a lime
salt to taste
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp mustard seeds and 1 tbsp kalonji seeds
Put the lentils in a pan with 600 ml of unsalted water with the turmeric and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer with a lid on for about 25 minutes until tender.
Dry fry the coriander and cumin for a few seconds in a medium saucepan. Add the oil, onion, chilli, garlic and grated ginger. Turn down the heat and fry until the onion is softened, stirring occasionally.
Stir in the lentils with the lime juice and salt to taste.
Dry fry the mustard and kalonji seeds for about 30 seconds.
Serve the lentils hot, topped with the seeds and the ginger matchsticks. Serve some rice and the chopped tomatoes on the side.