A Simple Dal

A Simple Dal

This recipe out of Alexis’s collection is a perfect example of food that lends itself to feeding large and mixed groups of eaters with ecstatic results: sunshiny curried red lentils cooked in coconut milk, threaded with tangles of spinach and tomato, studded with bites of eggplant, and fragrant with the scent and warmth of cumin, curry, and turmeric. I don’t know how authentically Indian this is, but I’m more about invoking the spirit ofdal than replicating it exactly. A bowl of this, with either some brown basmati rice or a piece of fluffy naan, makes me feel both cosily coddled and nourished. My resident carnivores don’t even bemoan the lack of meat, and with this much heartiness and knockout flavour, why would you? It’s inexpensive, vegan, one-pot, and super easy to boot.

Sunshiny Curried Lentils

Note: I played it pretty fast and loose when adapting this recipe, so some of the measurements—like 8 handfuls of red lentils—might seem a bit strange. Feel free to play around with the spices, in terms of both the kinds and quantities. You could also add some garam masala or cayenne, and increase or decrease quantities of the turmeric, cumin, and curry as you like. I use lots of turmeric as it is reportedly very good for preventing ovarian and uterine cancers in combination with black pepper and olive oil. You can also turn this into a delicious soup by cooking it in a stockpot and adding about 8 cups of liquid in addition to the coconut milk; either water or vegetable stock are fine. 


2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium yellow onions, diced
1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 cm dice
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons of ginger, minced (Note: I prefer to grate peeled fresh ginger on my Microplane grater)
1 tablespoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons mild or hot curry powder, or more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon flaky sea salt
1 can Italian plum tomatoes
1 can light coconut milk
8 handfuls red lentils
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed well and roughly torn
Roughly chopped cilantro and/or Greek yogurt (optional)


Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick frying pan or wok. Add the onions and eggplant and saute until the onions are tender and the eggplant is golden in spots, about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, ginger, spices, salt, and pepper and saute until fragrant, about a minute.

Either snip the tomatoes into smaller chunks in the can using kitchen scissors, or do what I do and squish them in your hands as you add them to the pan, along with their juices. Add the coconut milk and a tomato-can full of water, being sure to swish out all of the tomatoey juices before you add it to the pan. Add the lentils, stir, and reduce the heat to a low simmer.

Simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture is thick and the lentils are tender. If it gets too thick, or starts to stick to the pan, thin with some water. Just before you’re ready to serve, stir in the spinach to wilt and warm. Taste to check for seasonings, and add more salt, pepper, or curry powder as you like. Serve over steamed brown basmati rice, or with naan or whole-wheat chapatis, topped with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of cilantro. Serves at least 8.

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Eva Rosenberg

Eva Rosenberg

Welcome to Eva's Kitchen where I share my adventures in cooking. My creations may not always turn out Pinterest perfect, but I usually end up with a funny picture or an interesting meal. Thanks for stopping by!


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