We had a few friends around for dinner on Sunday night and decided that an Indian feast was the way to go. We fell back on some old favourites - palak paneer, samosas and kulfi - and included this Ottolenghi-inspired dal as something novel. It uses urad dal - black lentils - which are firmer and hold their shape better than some of the other dals we've used before. The downside to their firmer texture is that they need to be soaked overnight, so you need to be a bit organised.
The recipe is otherwise straightforward - it's a simple one pot meal that just needs a bit of time to get the liquid thickened up. The dal itself is lovely, with the garam masala giving it a nice warmth and depth, but the toppings are what really make this stand out. It's definitely worth tracking down fresh coconut if you can - we found frozen shredded coconut at Mix Supermarket in Brunswick, which was an easy solution. The recipe below makes tons of food - we were eating leftovers all week (with no complaints).
Urad dal with coconut & coriander
(adapted from one of Ottolenghi's recipes from The Guardian)
300g urad dal, soaked overnight
1 brown onion, peeled and chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 tablespoons minced ginger
1 whole green chilli, finely chopped
1.5 tablespoons garam masala
800g can crushed tomatoes
200ml coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons black mustard seeds, toasted
100g roughly grated fresh coconut (we found some pre-grated in the freezer at an Asian supermarket)
50g crispy fried shallots
1 bunch coriander, roughly chopped
Drain and rinse the dal and set aside.
Heat the ghee in a large saucepan and then fry the onion for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until its golden and soft.
Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and garam masala and stir-fry it all together for a couple of minutes.
Tip in the tomatoes and cook for another few minutes.
Add the dal, along with a litre of water and a teaspoon of salt. Cover until the mix is simmering and then simmer, uncovered, for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Cook it down until you've got a thick, soupy texture.
Kill the heat and stir in the coconut milk, lime juice and mustard seeds.
Serve, topped generously with the coconut, shallots and coriander.