This dal includes roast butternut squash for an extra creamy sweetness to the smokey spices, perfect to satisfy those take away cravings in one healthy filling dish. The butternut squash can easily be omitted if not available or in season. This recipe involves the process of tempering, a cooking technique used across India and South Asia, where spices are dry fried in ghee or oil and added at the end of the cooking process to flavour dhals and curries. If you don't have coconut oil, substitute with any regular cooking oil.
This can be eaten as a side or main dish with rice, naan and yoghurt. My recipe for deliciously fluffy and crispy coconut flatbreads can be found below. These take a little more time but are so worth it as part of a delicious and vegan Indian spread.
Serves 4 as a main or 6-8 as a side / Vegan
1 large butternut squash, peeled and chopped into 3cm chunks
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 onion, finely diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
Thumb sized piece of ginger, grated
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cinnamon
200g red lentils
400ml vegetable stock
1x400ml tin coconut milk
Handful of fresh curry leaves
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 red chilli, finely sliced
Fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 lemon, juiced
1. Preheat the oven to 220C/200C fan. Peel and chop the butternut squash, removing the seeds. Toss the chunks in olive oil, salt, pepper and the spices. Arrange on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes until soft.
2. In a large deep pan, add 2tbp of coconut oil and sweat the onions down over a low-medium heat until soft and translucent.
3. Turn up the heat and add the garlic, ginger and spices frying for 2 minutes until fragrant.
4. Rinse the lentils in cold water and drain. Add them to the pan, stirring to coat in the spices. Pour over the vegetable stock, bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down and cook for 25 minutes. They should have a thick, porridge-like consistency. Stir occasionally to make sure the lentils aren’t sticking.
5. Prepare the second temper by heating 1 tbsp coconut oil in a pan. Add the chilli, mustard seeds and curry leaves and heat gently until just sizzling. Pour into the lentil mix and stir through, along with the coconut milk.
6. Add the lemon juice, salt and pepper, tasting to adjust the seasoning. Top with the roasted squash and scatter over the coriander to serve.
500g strong white flour
7g dried yeast/15g fresh
10g caster sugar
15g sea salt
50ml olive oil
350ml warm water
20g desiccated coconut
Coconut oil, for frying (can substitute with any other)
1. Combine the dry ingredients in the bowl of a free standing mixer, fitted with a dough hook. Add the yeast, oil and water and start the mixer on a low speed for 4 minutes to combine the ingredients. Turn up the speed to high and mix for 5-6 minutes until smooth, shiny and elastic.
2. Transfer the dough to to an oiled bowl, cover and leave to rise in a warm place for 1.5 until doubled in size.
3. Knock back the dough and add the coconut and sultanas. Give it a gentle knead to incorporate the ingredients and knock the air out. Divide the dough into 150g balls, you should get about 6 dough balls. Shape into balls and leave on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Cover and leave to proof for 45 mins -1 hour until risen and fluffy.
4. In a large frying pan over a high heat, heat a good drizzle of coconut oil or any other oil if you don’t have it. Have a plate ready greased with a little oil and stretch out one of the dough balls with your hands to fit the size of the plate.
5. When the pan is hot and almost smoking, carefully lower the dough into the pan. Lots of bubbles will begin to appear, use a spatula to keep flat. Cook until golden brown and crispy, then flip over and cook the other side.
6. While cooking, stretch out the next dough ball and leave on the oiled plate. You may need to add a little more oil between each cook.
7. Transfer the flatbreads to a tray to a tray. They can be warmed up in a low oven just before serving with an extra drizzle of coconut oil.