I might have told you about the Sodha family cookbook before. It’s where we write down all the recipes that Hugh, my husband, and I both cook, love and want to make again. The plan is to pass it on to our daughters one day. This dal made the cut. It’s based on a Malaysian dal curry we ate gallons of on a trip to Singapore. It’s more fragrant than Indian dal, it has more aromatics such as lemongrass and star anise, and it’s as soothing to cook (all in one pot) as it is to eat, because the coconut milk softens the edges somewhat.
Malaysian dal curry
This could and should be a cheap meal, especially if you buy the ingredients from an Asian supermarket (or one online). If you buy more curry leaves and lemongrass than you need, keep them wrapped up in the freezer for next time. Serve with paratha (you can buy these from the freezer section of many Asian supermarkets) or steamed rice.
Prep 5 min
Cook 35 min
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
10 fresh (or frozen) curry leaves
1 stick lemongrass, bruised
2 star anise
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
1½ tsp kashmiri chilli
1½ tbsp tomato puree
300g red lentils
1¼ tsp fine sea salt
2 medium carrots (150g), peeled and cut into 1cm cubes
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1½ tbsp tamarind paste
Crispy chilli oil, to serve – the Laoganma brand, which is widely available at large supermarkets, south-east Asian food stores and online, is far and away my favourite
Put the oil in a large saucepan on a medium heat and, once hot, add the curry leaves, lemongrass and star anise and cook until the leaves crackle. Stir in the onion, cook for about six minutes, until soft and translucent, then add the garlic, cook for two minutes more.
Add the coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder, stir to mix, then add the tomato puree, lentils and salt, and cook for two minutes.
Add the carrots and coconut milk, then fill up the empty coconut milk tin twice with tap water and add that to the pan, too. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20-25 minutes, until the dal is nice and thick and the carrots tender. Stir through the tamarind paste, then taste and adjust the salt, chilli or tamarind as you see fit and serve topped with a spoonful of crispy chilli oil.