One of the most frequently requested dinners in our house is dhal. We are not vegetarian, but I do like to include plant protein meals regularly in our meal rotation. I have prepared a stove top dhal for many years but this year I branched out into the realm of baked dhal, which has become a firm favourite.
The texture is silky smooth from slow cooking of the lentils and addition of cauliflower, and the apple adds a sweetness to balance the bitter and pungent spices. Topped with curry-spiked seeds brings a delightful crunch to the dish. If you love bold flavours, I urge you to give this go.
The humble cauliflower has enjoyed recent popularity in healthy cooking with the likes of cauliflower rice and pizza bases. Personally, I rarely delve further than roasted cauliflower – chopped into bite-sized pieces, tossed in olive oil, smoked paprika, cumin and oregano, and roasted until golden around the edges. Sweet, smoky and melt in the mouth.
Cauliflower and other brassica fair well in our frost-heavy garden. Seedlings are planted in February, squished in between summer produce, to give them a head start before winter arrives. Although frosts slow down growth they also produce something magical in winter crops. Sugars are concentrated, fibre relaxes and nutrients are stored. As that famous TV ad quoted, “good things take time”. Embrace the humble cauliflower.
This recipe makes a generous quantity that can be frozen or eaten as leftovers. Note, it is important the dhal is uncovered in the oven so excess moisture can evaporate to thicken the dhal.
1 1/2 cups split red lentils
2 teaspoons ghee or oil
1 large onion, chopped
Half cauliflower head (about 300g), trimmed and chopped into 1cm chunks
1 apple, cored and roughly chopped
4cm knob of fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
8 whole garlic cloves, squashed and skins removed
1 whole red chilli (optional)
2 rounded teaspoons mild curry powder
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 cinnamon quill
6 cups vegetable stock or water
1 teaspoon salt
3-4 tablespoons lemon juice
Basmati rice or roti, natural yoghurt and chopped coriander to serve
- Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius.
- Rinse the lentils in a sieve until the water runs clear. Set aside to drain while preparing the vegetables.
- In a large heavy-based pan – suitable for putting inside the oven – heat the ghee or oil over a moderate heat. Add the onions and saute for 5-10 minutes until softened and starting to colour. Add the cauliflower, apple, ginger, garlic, chilli and spices. Continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes.
- Add the rinsed lentils and stock or water and bring to a boil. Place the pan into the oven, uncovered, and cook for 30 minutes. Add the salt and stir well. Bake for a further 30–40 minutes until thickened. At this stage, the dhal can be pureed with a stick blender to blend in the cauliflower and apple pieces – this is optional.
- Stir through the lemon juice, check the seasoning, and serve immediately with cooked basmati rice or roti, natural yoghurt, chopped coriander and curried toasted seeds (recipe below).
CURRIED TOASTED SEEDS
These toasted seeds add a delightful crunchy element to the dhal. This recipe makes a generous amount, leftover seeds make a great snack or can be sprinkled over salads.
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
1 teaspoon soy sauce or tamari
1/2 -1 teaspoon mild curry powder
Place the seeds in a frying pan over a moderate heat. Dry toast the seeds, shaking often until golden. Remove from the heat and tip into a bowl. Mix through the soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon curry powder. Check taste, adding extra curry powder if needed.
** First published 27th September on Stuff Lifestyle.