A wonderful dish for a crowd if you include all the trimmings in the full-on menu (including crispy cauliflower, green chutney, dosas and a crunchy salad, see left). Make a quarter of the amount of just the dal for a quick week-night dinner for two, or go the whole hog with all the sides if entertaining. SERVES 6-8 1 tbsp coconut oil 2 onions, chopped 5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated 4 cloves garlic, sliced 2 cinnamon sticks 1 tbsp cumin seeds 2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed 1-3 (depending on how hot you like it) bird’s eye chillies, deseeded and chopped 20 curry leaves large bunch of coriander, stalks chopped and leaves kept whole 1 tbsp ground turmeric 1 large aubergine, cubed handful of dried apricots, chopped 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes 1 x 400ml tin coconut milk 500ml chicken or vegetable stock 350g lentils (use a mixture of red, orange and yellow) squeeze of honey (optional) salt and pepper
FOR THE TARKA TOPPING 1 tbsp coconut oil 4 cloves garlic, sliced into thin chips 1 tsp cumin seeds 1 tsp nigella seeds 1 large red chilli, thinly sliced small bunch of curry leaves
1 Heat the coconut oil in a large pan and cook the onions, ginger, garlic and cinnamon over a low heat until the onions are translucent. Increase the heat then add the cumin and coriander seeds, bird’s eye chillies, curry leaves and chopped coriander stalks, and fry for a good 5 minutes, stirring to stop it catching. 2 Next add the turmeric, aubergine and apricots and cook for a further 5 minutes, allowing the aubergine to caramelise a little, followed by the tomatoes, coconut milk, stock and lentils. Leave to simmer for 45 minutes, then taste and season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of honey, if desired. 3 When you are almost ready to serve, make up the tarka for the top of the dal. Melt the coconut oil in a pan and add the garlic, cumin seeds, nigella seeds, chilli and curry leaves. Cook over a low heat, stirring, until the garlic turns golden. Add this, still sizzling, to the top of the dal. Scatter the dal with the coriander leaves and serve.