I never appreciated lentils until I left home. Lentils were boring, weren’t they? And y’know, farty. I then discovered Indian dal and Spanish lentejas and the little French puy lentils and I’m not sure how it happened but I now love the little legumes. They’re cheap, they’re healthy, they’re tasty – what’s not to like? Well, ok, so they’re still a bit farty but we all can’t be perfect.

Lentils with Chorizo

This recipe for lentils with chorizo is easy – if you didn’t want to mess up both a pot and a pan, you could fry the onion, garlic and chorizo in the pot and then chuck everything else in and set it to simmer. I wanted to get my lentils on first to save time that chilly weekday. It makes for a budget meal too as I reckon it costs about £1 a serving. You can bulk it out a bit more by adding potatoes too.

Poor Blai though! Just the look and smell of these triggered memories of terrible school lunch lentils; he admitted to feeling despair when presented with a bowl of them. Luckily (for him and me), he did proclaim enjoyment of the dish after a few spoonfuls! Hurrah!

Lentils with Chorizo
serves 3-4.

250g green lentils
150g chorizo
1 carrot
1 bay leaf
1 tbsp tomato paste
olive oil
1 onion
1 clove garlic
a large pinch of dried chilli flakes
a large splash of dry sherry
1-2 tsp pimentón
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pick through your lentils (you’re checking for stones), wash them thoroughly and cover them with plenty of water and set to boil. When it comes to a boil, reduce the heat till it’s at a strong simmer. Stir occasionally.

Peel and cut the carrot into large chunks and throw them, the tomato paste, and the bay leaf in with the lentils. Cut the chorizo into large chunks. Heat a frying pan over medium heat and throw in the chorizo and let fry in its own oil until the cut surfaces are golden. Stir the chorizo and its oil into the lentil pot.

Finely chop the onion. Place the frying pan back over the heat, add some olive oil and add the chopped onion and a large pinch of dried chilli flakes. Fry until the onion is golden. At this point, mince or chop the garlic and add it to the pan and fry until fragrant. Deglaze with the dry sherry and once all the alcohol has bubbled away, scrape everything into the lentil pot too.

Stir in the pimentón and continue simmering lentils until done – about 45 minutes altogether. Add more water if required during the simmering time – how thin you wish to have it is up to you. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve with some bread on the side.

Here’s my first attempt to recreate the amazing dal that was part of our banana leaf rice from Samy’s Curry. Oh that was the dal of dreams!

I cannot remember where I copied this recipe from (it looked promising!) but one of the main modifications I made was to increase the amount of water – those yellow lentils really soak it up. The frying of the aromatics really brings out their flavour and that all gets absorbed by the lentils. The curry leaves tasted of not much when I was eating the leftovers the next day! I have no idea what makes it Malaysian-style but that was one of reasons why I decided to try this recipe – as I’d only eaten this kind of dal in Malaysia and Singapore.

While this did taste very nice (well, positively addictive actually as we could hardly stop spooning it into our mouths), the texture wasn’t exactly what I was looking for. The dal at the banana leaf places was smoother and just felt nicer on the tongue. My dal was a bit rough – it was soft and fully cooked but it just had a bit of graininess there. Any ideas on how to improve this? I might try using red lentils next.

Malaysian-Style Dal

Malaysian-Style Dal
serves 4 as part of a meal

1 cup dried yellow lentils
3 cups water
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp + 2 tbsps ghee or oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 dried red chili
1 medium onion, sliced thinly
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 slices ginger, peeled and minced
20 fresh curry leaves
1 tsp garam masala
1 medium tomato, cut into 8-10 sections
salt to taste

Pick through the lentils and remove any foreign objects (I found wheat husks and once, a stone). Rinse the lentils a few times in water, until the water runs clear. In a medium sized pot, stir together the lentils, water, turmeric and 1 tsp of ghee/oil (I used oil and then chucked in a good sized lump of butter at the end!). Set it over high heat and when it comes to a boil, reduce the heat and let it simmer until the lentils are soft. This should take about 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

Heat a frying pan over medium heat and add the 2 tbsps of ghee/oil. Add the mustard seeds and when they start to pop, add the chili, onion, garlic, ginger and curry leaves. Fry until the onion softens and starts to become golden. Add the garam masala and the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes start to wilt. Pour this entire mixture into the softened lentils, add salt to the pot, mix well, and continue simmering the lentils for about 5 minutes. The final mixture will be quite thick. Feel free to add more water if you like your dal thinner.

Eat with lots of rice! We ate it along with a mutter paneer that looked so lovely and tasted lovelier – thank you, Route79! That recipe really does require the simmering time as then the tomatoes mellow out (a bit of sugar helps) and don’t taste so…Italian.

Mutter Paneer

Another vegetable dish I highly recommend is this recipe for cabbage sabzi from One Hot Stove. It’s delicious and leftovers keep well in the fridge.