For the winter blues: Sri Lankan coconut dhal

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Hello! How are you, how’s the world at your end? Here in the UK, we’re cocooned in layers of snow of varying thickness, depending on where you are. When I was coming home tonight, around 6.30 pm, I felt this thick layer of snow under my feet is starting to freeze. I wonder what we’ll wake up to tomorrow. As idyllic as it all looks, us Mediterranean types are not faring to well in these conditions. All I want to do is hibernate until the sun shines back on us again. But though I refuse to believe it, the life goes on. There are jobs to do, people to see, dinners to cook… Yes… Dinners… Here’s what kept me awake and re-energised me this evening. Remember that delicious Sri Lankan dhal I was telling you about earlier? Here’s the recipe. Without the photos for now, until my camera awakes from its winter sleep. (I meant to take photos this evening, but my camera failed me.)

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This dhal is a serious contender for the title of my favourite dhal, so far held by the seductive Bengali Red Dal. It has a rich gutsy flavour of red lentils cooked with onion, garlic, chillies, and cumin and black pepper, imbued with the heady aroma of curry leaves, and with a squeeze of lime to heighten your senses. I normally prefer to eat my dhal on the same day I make it, but this one I find improves with time. That is if you can stay away from it and leave some for tomorrow. I’m proud to day that this time I managed to do just that. Not even I can eat this much dhal at one sitting!

Let not the long list of ingredients intimidate you. This dhal is really very easy to make, and you can leave it to look after itself while you’re doing something else. Like making Sri Lankan coconut rotis, for example. Yes, that’s a good thing to do. (Recipe coming soon.) 

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Sri Lankan coconut dhal

 

SOURCEJasmine’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: under 5 min

COOKING TIME: about 45 min

CUISINE: Sri Lankan

SERVES: 3 – 4 as a side dish, or 2 as a main

 

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup of red lentils

1/4 red (medium to large) onions, or 2 shallots

2 large cloves of garlic, sliced

3 green chillies, roughly chopped

a handful of fresh curry leaves, shredded

1/3 tsp turmeric

2/3 tsp roughly ground cumin and black pepper mixture

1 scant tsp of fenugreek seeds

1/5 – 1/4 can of coconut milk

Juice of 1/2 lime, or more to taste

3 – 4 dried red chillies

salt to taste

a handful of (preferably fresh) curry leaves

1 tbsp vegetable oil or ghee

1 tbsp tempering spices (mixture of brown/black mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds – see Sri Lankan spices for recipe)

1 1/2 tbsp fried onions (or 3 – 4 shallots, shredded and then fried as below)

 

METHOD:

Place the lentils in about 2 – 3 cups of water. Then chop the chillies, onions, garlic, shred the curry leaves and add them to the lentils, together with turmeric, fenugreek and the cumin and black pepper mixture. Boil together until the lentils turn soft.

When the lentils are soft, add the coconut milk and stir through.

Before you’re ready to eat, prepare the tadka or tempering for the dhal. I usually don’t have fried onions at hand, so this is what I do. I heat the oil and then add the chillies and the curry leaves to it. when the curry leaves are starting to turn crisp, I pop in the onions/shallots, and cook them until they’re almost copper brown. Then add a few more curry leaves (if you want, which I invariably do), and the tempering spices. Stir for 10 s or until they release their fragrance. Now pop the contents of the pan into the lentil mixture, reserving perhaps some for the garnish. Stir, put the lid back on, and leave it for a minute or two for the flavours to mingle and make friends.

Don’t forget the lime. I sometimes add it before adding the tadka to the lentils, and sometimes after the tadka. Either way, don’t leave it out. It really does make all the difference.

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More dhals from this blog:

Bengali Red Dhal

Minty dhal (2 versions of  recipe)

 

Also:

More recipes with beans and lentils

More Sri Lankan recipes

 

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We’re at the 8th helping of My Legume Love Affair hosted and organised by the talented Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. This is my entry for the event.  

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The Best of Aubergines: Italian Parmigiana

Sicilian dish parmigiana is one of my favourite dishes, if not the favourite dish, starring one of my favourite  vegetables – the aubergine! With its layers of soft, smoky aubergine that melts in the mouth, slices of mozzarella and tomato sauce, parmigiana is an absolute star dish! Simple, yet stunning, and showcasing the best of the seasonal ingredients, this is my entry for Eating with the Seasons: September. I know, I know, I’ve already cooked with aubergine for Eating with the Seasons, but hey – aubergine is in season! 😀

My parmigiana is very simple, with few ingredients, and this is just the way I like it. I grill my aubergines (hence the smokiness from the previous paragraph), rather than fry them, which is traditional; I use a simple tomato sauce, with a touch of fresh basil. That’s it. That’s my secret. Not that you need many secrets with a combination of flavours as perfect as this.

 

Parmigiana with

 

Aubergines

 

SOURCE: Can’t remember. My variation of a few versions

PREPARATION TIME: 5 – 10 min

COOKING TIME: about 1 h

CUISINE: Italian (Sicilian)

SERVES: 3 – 4

 

INGREDIENTS:

I. For grilled aubergines

1 large aubergine

a little olive oil

salt and pepper

II. For the tomato sauce

a little olive oil

1/2 yellow onion

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 tin tomatoes (I like the Napolina brand), or 400 g fresh tomatoes

a pinch of sugar

a handful of fresh basil

III. Cheese

1 packet of mozzarella, sliced

some grated parmesan for topping

 

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METHOD:

I. Grilled Aubergines

  • Cut the aubergines into either round slices, or diagonally. (Round is prettier!)
  • Season with salt and pepper and brush with olive oil. Try and use a brush here. It really makes your life easier, and the aubergines drink up less oil.
  • Grill the aubergine slices until soft and golden on both sides.

II. Tomato sauce

  • While the aubergines are cooking on the grill, gently cook the onion and garlic in olive oil until soft and translucent. (I sometimes skip the onion, and use only garlic)
  • Add the tomatoes, a small pinch of sugar and the seasoning, and cook for 5 – 10 min for a fresh-tasting tomato sauce, or longer if you prefer a richer tomatoey flavour.
  • Just before assembling the dish, put in a handful of fresh basil into the sauce and stir.

III. Assembling the dish

  • Put a layer of grilled aubergines at the bottom of a heatproof dish, top with mozzarella, and then tomato sauce. (I use an oval ceramic Le Creuset 24 cm baking dish for this purpose, which has the capacity of 1.1l.) Continue like this until you run out of aubergines, finishing off with a layer of mozzarella, sprinkled with parmesan on top.
  • Bake on 200 C or so for about 20 – 30 min, or until the top is nicely golden, and the cheese melted.

Serve with a salad and some garlic bread to mop up the juices.  

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Other aubergine recipes at Maninas:

Ajvar – aubergine and red pepper relish V

This lovely relish is probably the most popular condiment of the former Yugoslavia.

Indian Aubergine Pate – Baigan Bharta  

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