Monday 16 December 2019

Forkful's easy suppers: Coconut Dhal

Coconut Dhal. Photo: Mark Duggan
Coconut Dhal. Photo: Mark Duggan

Aoife McElwain

Without consciously setting out to, so far this year I've only offered up meat-free recipes in this column. This week's dhal recipe continues in that trend. I've been changing the way I look at meat for the last couple of years. Instead of looking at it as an essential part to a meal, I've started to consider meat a luxury.

A British study in 2014 found that meat-based diets caused twice the climate-warming emissions as vegetarian diets. Thinking about this has led me to view meat as a treat, to be enjoyed a couple of times a week. Because I'm buying less, I can spend a little more, shopping in reputable butchers such as Coolanowle Organic at Green Door Market and Ennis Butchers, both in my local Dublin 8.

Granted, I have the freedom to make this choice because I'm not cooking for a family who have become attached to the meat next to their two vegetables.

If that's your situation, perhaps arming yourself with a couple of delicious meat-free recipes might help you to incorporate a few vegetarian days in your weekly meal routine, without making a big fuss out of it.

Dhal (also spelled dal or daal) is the Indian word for lentils, but it's also the word for the soups and curries we make from these pulses. This dhal is a really speedy supper that is particularly comforting at this time of year. I've put my trusty curry paste base of mustard seeds, onions and spices to use here, sweetened by the addition of a good dollop of coconut milk.

I've used the method of cooking the lentils in the dhal base, because they tend to keep their shape a little more this way though the nature of red lentils means they will have a mushy texture.

Serve the dahl hot or warm, and make sure to add some good quality naan bread on the side.

Coconut Dhal

Serves 4

Prep Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 30 minutes


Vegetable oil

1 teaspoon of brown mustard seeds

1 onion, finely sliced

1 teaspoon of chilli flakes

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon of ground coriander

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

Half a tin of coconut milk

Pinch of salt

Pinch of pepper

300g red lentils

Fresh coriander

1 green chilli

1 lime

Naan bread


1. Heat a drizzle of vegetable oil in a large deep pan over a medium heat. Fry the mustard seeds in the oil for a few minutes before adding the finely sliced onion and chilli flakes, and fry gently for 10 minutes until the onion has softened and become translucent. Add the garlic and fry for another couple of minutes. You want the garlic to start to give off its lovely smell but not to burn. Add the ground coriander and cumin, stir, and cook for another minute.

2. Next, add the tinned tomatoes, half a tin of coconut milk, a generous pinch of salt and pepper. Mix everything really well.

3. Rinse the lentils under cold water and drain. Finally, add the lentils to the pan with the tomato dhal base and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Season with a bit more salt and pepper, to taste.

4. Serve your dhal with some fresh coriander and chopped green chilli on top, with slices of lime and naan bread on the side.

This week's storecupboard essential:

Lentils: Lentils can be divided into three main groups: brown, green and red. Brown, such as puy lentils, cook very quickly, while the green (which yellow lentils would fit into) take a little longer and maintain their shape really well. Red lentils cook in less than half an hour, breaking down into a mushy paste, making them perfect for dhals.

Irish Independent

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