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Coconut Dal with Kale in a bowl
November 2022
Reading time 1 Minute

Cooked with lemongrass and, if you can get it, pandan leaf which adds a warm, vanilla flavour, this dal is distinctively light and perfect for the colder months

Unlike its Indian counterparts like black dal makhani made with cream, or tarka dal made with butter, there is no other dal quite like it.
  • For the dal
  • 300g red split lentils or toor lentils
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled and halved lengthways
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, bruised
  • 1½ tsp salt, or to taste
  • ½ tsp SL curry powder (see below)
  • 4cm piece of pandan leaf (optional)
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 100ml coconut milk
  • 3–4 small handfuls of kale (approx. 200g)
  • ½ lime
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
  • For the temper
  • 1 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and finely sliced
  • 10 fresh curry leaves
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • For SL Curry Powder
  • 30g coriander seeds
  • 15g cumin seeds
  • 15g fennel seeds
  • 15g black peppercorns
  • 2 tbsp coconut or vegetable oil
  • 8-10 fresh curry leaves
  • 70g dried Kashmiri or medium hot red chillies
  • ¼ tsp ground turmeric

  1. Pour the lentils into a saucepan and rinse loosely under the tap then drain well. Cover the lentils with water until they’re submerged by about 5cm. Add the garlic, lemongrass, salt, SL curry powder and pandan leaf, if using. Bring to a boil over a medium-high heat.

  1. Skim off any scum and turn the heat down, so the lentils are simmering. Add the turmeric and simmer for 12–15 minutes until the lentils are tender. There’s no need to stir here, you can basically forget about them except to check they’re not bubbling too vigorously.

  1. Drain off about eighty per cent of the liquid. You don’t want it to be too wet and soupy because you’re adding coconut milk.

  1. Stir in coconut milk and kale and allow to simmer gently for two to three minutes until the kale is bright green. Take out a little kale to try; it shouldn’t taste raw but should be soft with a firm bite. Remove from the heat and transfer to your serving bowl.

  1. In a small frying pan, make the temper. Heat the oil over a medium-high heat (careful, it will splutter a little). When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally for three to five minutes until it starts to turn golden brown. Add the curry leaves, mustard seeds and cumin seeds and cook for a couple of minutes until the curry leaves are bright green. Be careful not to burn the spices!

  1. Pour the whole temper, oil included, onto the cooked dal. Squeeze lime over it and sprinkle over the chilli flakes, if using, just before serving.
Rambutan by Cynthia Shanmugalingam (Bloomsbury, £26).
Rambutan by Cynthia Shanmugalingam (Bloomsbury, £26).

Rambutan by Cynthia Shanmugalingam (Bloomsbury, £26)

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