It seems that the Indian traditions have overtaken me: chai last week and this week, dhal. It may be because of the arrival of my new book about Ayurveda or because of my dear friend Marta, both of them might have influenced me somehow. But either way, today´s recipe has been deeply ingrained in my autumn and winter cooking tradition. In fact, when I was living in France I cooked a dinner for quite a few people and this one was the second dish. It might seem less sophisticated and tasty at first sight but the creamy and slightly sweet mix of the dhal combined with the sauer, citric and “spicy” sauce forms an explosion of flavours very difficult to forget. Besides that, it is a dish which nourishes and warms the body because of the combination of spices, coconut, lentils and oats. This last ingredient, coupled with the lentils, finishes it up turning it into a complete and balanced dish. If you don´t have oats, you can use rice or another wholegrain of your choice. It is very important to soak the oats overnight as they will be more digestive and will take less time to be cooked. You can also use any vegetables you have around in the kitchen, such as pumpkin, carrot, parsnip or cauliflower which also get along very well.
Don´t be intimidated by the amount of ingredients of this recipe as they are, for the most part,
spices or aromatic herbs which are the base of an amazing taste. Here again it is important to have whole spices, such as the cardamom,cumin and mustard. They will release a lot more flavour.
It is also important to remember that as any other stew, it gets better from one day to the next. You will see how it has become thicker, but remember to heat it before adding more water, as the coconut milk will get liquid again and you will be able to see if it needs more liquid or not.
You should always serve the sauce apart in order for everyone to serve themselves whatever they want. If you add the sauce to the stew, this one will lose the flavour and nutritional properties if you had to heat it again.
As it is a dish which involves several steps and a lot of organization, it is important to make double amount the next time you decide to cook it and freeze whatever you have left, of course only if you have liked it. I use to freeze it in mason jars with different sizes, one or two small ones would be my son´s portion (in this way, I would have a stock of ready food he can bring to school) and the other ones would be the portions for three people for whenever we dinner all together. This way you will only need to think about the grain to serve it with. You could also make double amount of the sauce and freeze it in small jars or in ice trays and so, you will have frozen ice cubes (which you will keep in airtight bags in the freezer). If you use crystal jars, it is important to follow all these steps in order for the jars not to get split: fill the jar up to two fingers from the edge, let it cool down in the fridge, place it in the freezer without covering it until it is completely frozen.
Hope you enjoy it as much as I do.
Ingredients (6 servings)
for the dhal:::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
200 gr of oats
300 gr of red lentils
500 gr of sweet potatoes
1 tbsp of coconut oil or ghee
1 chopped onion
1/2 celery branch with the leaves
3 cloves of garlic
1 bay leaf
5 cardamom seeds
½ tbsp of ground cumin
1/2 tbsp of mustard seeds
80 gr of tomato sauce ( or two cut tomatoes)
1 tbsp of curry
½ tbsp of turmeric
1 liter of water
1 can of coconut milk (400ml)
1 tbsp of salt (or more, if necessary)
2 bunches of fresh spinach
4 tbsp of chopped parsley
1tsp of tamarind paste (optional)
for the sauce::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::::
15 gr of fresh ginger
50 gr of lemon juice
50 gr of extra virgin olive oil
20 gr of fresh coriander
2 cloves of garlic a pinch of salt
- Soak the oats overnight in a bowl with water.
- Wash the lentils with the help of a strainer and put it aside.
- In a big pot stir fry the onion with the coconut oil. Cut the stalks of the coriander, chop the garlic and the celery and put everything inside the pot together with the bay leaf. Fry lightly during 5 minutes more on a low heat. Break a bit the cardamom and add it together with the cumin,
- the mustard seeds, the curry and the turmeric and boil it for 5 minutes more being careful of not burning the mustard seeds. Peel and chop the sweet potato in cubes of about +/- 2 cm.
- Put in into the pot, together with the lentils. Turn it twice with a spoon and add the tomato sauce.
- Cover everything with the water, increase the heat and cover it. Whenever you see it is starting to boil, reduce the heat to the minimum. Stir it from time to time so the lentils don´t get burnt at the bottom of the pot. Boil for 20 minutes.
- In the meantime boil the oats with abundant water with salt for about 30 minutes or until it is cooked.
- Chop the parsley and remove the little tails of the spinach, if they are very thick.
- After 20 minutes, add the coconut milk and the salt to the stew, boil for 5 minutes more and add the spinach bunch, the parsley and the tamarind paste. Stir well and let it stand for 5 minutes. Add a bit more of salt if you consider it necessary.
- For the antioxidant sauce, mix the oil, lemon juice and the salt in a bowl and add the chopped coriander leaves, the garlic and ginger shredded with a microplane-like grater (or whatever you have at hand, but always very thin). Stir it.
- When it is time to serve the food, put each thing in a different bowl: dhal, oats and the sauce so everyone can help himself to whatever they feel like.