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Today’s Dish: Vegetarian Sri Lankan Dhal


By Meg Walker
22nd Nov 2017
Today’s Dish: Vegetarian Sri Lankan Dhal

Dhal is a very popular breakfast dish in Sri Lanka – a bit like having a bowl of porridge. Tempering (heating spices in oil), gives a flavour booster. Leftover dhal watered down a little bit makes a warming and nourishing soup. Pandan, or rampe, give off a warm citrus perfume and is used in sweet and savoury dishes. It can be added to most curries if you are able to get hold of some. You can buy pandan in Southeast Asian shops or online at asiancookshop.com. You can’t really substitute it so just leave it out if you don’t have any. This keeps for a few days and freezes well.

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
350g red split lentils
2 green chillies
5cm pandan (if you have any)
½ garlic head, cut horizontally with skin on
1 tsp turmeric
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1 shallot, peeled
400ml coconut milk
2 tsp sea salt
175g spinach, washed
1 tsp chilli powder

For the temper
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
handful of curry leaves

To serve (optional)
pol roti
Buffalo curd labneh or yoghurt
crispy onions

Method
Soak the lentils in cold water while you get together the rest of your ingredients.

Drain the lentils and transfer to a large pan with 800ml water, the whole green chillies, pandan, garlic, turmeric, cinnamon and shallot and simmer on a low heat, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk to the pan and cook for 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft. Then add the salt (you add it at the end, as doing so beforehand prevents the lentils from cooking).

Once the lentils are cooked, turn off the heat and fish out the pandan, garlic and shallot with tongs and discard. Add the spinach and chilli powder to the lentils.

To make the temper, heat the oil in a small pan. Once it starts to smoke, add the mustard seeds, quickly followed by the curry leaves. Pour into the dhal and serve with toppings and sides of your choice.

Extracted from Weligama: Recipes from Sri Lanka by Emily Dobbs (Seven Dials, approx €28). Photography by Issy Croker.