Much like the rest of the western population, after over-indulging for the whole month of December (ok….and half of November if we’re really being honest with each other), I’m two and a half weeks into this new me, healthy, clean eating, no wine, no processed foods, no junk (blah, blah, blah….yawn) lifestyle.
Although we haven’t faired too badly so far, I can feel myself on the verge of a breakdown. Those cravings are starting to creep up on me and no matter how much I tell myself that an apple will be perfect for a post dinner snack or how the superfood salad will leave me feeling positively glowing and thoroughly cleansed, there are definite cracks appearing in my willpower.
Let’s be honest, a salad (no matter how ‘super’ it may be) is really not going to hit the spot on these cold, wet January days, is it? So, to motivate you through the last hard slog of a healthy January, I wanted to share with you one of my favourite comfort foods – dahl.
Dahl is probably one of the most common dishes in an Indian household. And rightly so – there are at least over twenty varieties in the Indian repertoire. The word Dahl means dried legume (lentil or pea). But dahl encompasses a whole host of other dried beans and chickpeas as well as legumes.
Most people are aware that dahl is an excellent source of protein, low in calories and fat. However, did you know that dahls are also packed with an array of vitamins such as iron, folic acid and magnesium (to mention just a few).
More importantly, it is absolutely delicious, warm and filling so you can enjoy it guilt free which makes it perfect for your January health kick.
The recipe I’ve provided is made from a lentil called Urad, also know as the black gram or black lentil. The popular and tasty dish Dahl Makhani is made from this lentil. Although not commonly known, you will find this lentil available in most grocery stores in the world food aisle.
However, for this recipe we will be using the split urad, which essentially means that the lentil has been skinned leaving it a gorgeous golden colour. This recipe has a unique and beautifully buttery flavour, which always satisfies my comfort food cravings, but in fact there is very little butter or fat used to cook the dish.
It’s also very easy to cook and can be ready to serve in less than 20 minutes (once the dahl is cooked through).
Enjoy…. And please do let me know whether it helped you stay on track for your healthy Jan!
1 ½ cups urad lentils (also known as split urad)
4-5 cups water
½ tsp salt + a little extra to season to taste
1-2 tsps rapeseed or olive oil
¼ tsp ground red chilli
Pinch of turmeric
¼ tsp ground cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp crushed garlic
¾ tsp garam masala
15g unsalted butter
Small handful of chopped coriander
Place the lentils in a large pot, cover with water and rub lentils through your hands to give them a wash. Rinse the lentils through a colander until you see the water runs clear.
Return the lentils to the pan and cover the lentils with double the amount of water. Place on a high heat and bring to a boil.
At boiling point, you should notice a thick layer of white froth covering the lentils. Turn down the heat and with a large spoon, remove the white froth.
Now add ½ tsp salt and a ¼ tsp oil to the lentils and stir through. Half cover the pan with a lid and allow the lentils to cook on a medium heat until they are soft – this should take about 25-30 mins. Keep the water topped up enough to cover the lentils at all times.
After 20 mins, test the lentils by pushing them against the side of the pan with a spoon. If they break under the pressure easily, they are cooked.
Once cooked, add the ¼ tsp crushed garlic (leave the other ¼ tsp for tempering*) ground red chilli, ground cumin, ground coriander and turmeric. Stir through and allow the spices to cook for a further 5 mins.
The last step is to the temper* (see note below) the crushed garlic and add to the dahl. Heat oil in a very small pan for 30 seconds and add the remaining ¼ tsp crushed garlic. Keep the garlic moving either by swishing the oil or moving it around with a spoon. Just as the garlic is starting to brown, carefully add the tempered garlic to the cooked lentils and stir through.
Now, add a little more water if required – the dahl should be the consistency of thick soup. At this point you can whizz up the dahl (with a handheld processor) to provide a smoother dahl or you could leave it if you prefer a more textured consistency.
At this point, you can leave to cool until you are ready to complete the final steps or after cooling, freeze for future use.
Immediately before serving, warm the dahl, add the garam masala, butter, coriander and salt to taste.
Serve piping hot, garnished with coriander and warm chappatti’s or pitta bread.
*Tempering – Widely used method in Indian cuisine, in which whole or ground spices are heated in hot oil or ghee and then added to a dish. The hot fat has an amazing ability to extract and retain the essence, aroma and flavor of spices and herbs and then carry this essence with it when added to a dish.