Carrot Dhal with Radish Pickle
I love this dish because it matches the mood of early May so well; the pinks and oranges of the root vegetables echo the spring flowers shooting up all around, but the warming spices soothe that part of us that can’t quite believe that spring is really, definitely here, and that summer will be quick on its heels. The last few days have been cold enough to warrant a bowl of something comforting, and the volume of healing spice and vitamin packed vegetables secreted into the pot will ensure the last of the winter colds are blown away. For me the magic of this recipe lies in the pickle; it brings both a spicy tang and a lovely sweetness to the dish. A dollop of plain yoghurt on top of the dhal should counteract and unwanted heat, but if you dislike the prickle of spice I would simply take out the seeds of the chilli before grating. The pickled radishes may at first seem like an extra hassle, but as ever with South Asian cooking, it is these smaller details that bring the dish to life. And it is unashamedly pretty. If you have a food processor that will speed up the vegetable prep, but there is equally something very relaxing in shutting the kitchen door and losing yourself in the cooking process. The smell of gently toasting spices, and freshly grated ginger will be enough to have you making this dish on repeat.
Serves 4 For the dhal: 2 cloves of garlic 1 green chilli thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger 1 red onion Vegetable or coconut oil 1 tsp cumin seeds 1 tsp coriander seeds 1 tsp black mustard seeds 1 tsp turmeric 1 tsp cinnamon 200g red lentils 1 x 400ml coconut milk 600ml vegetable stock 6 large carrots 2 large handfuls of spinach juice of 1 lemon For the pickle: thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger 1 green chilli 1 lemon 2 handfuls of radishes 1 tbsp nigella seeds 1 tbsp white wine vinegar honey bunch of fresh coriander Put a large saucepan on a medium heat and heat a dollop of oil. Finely grate the garlic, chilli and ginger, then coarsely grate the onion. Add these to the warm oil and cook for ten minutes or so, until softened and sweet. Pound the cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder, then add all the spices to the pan. Toast them for just a couple of minutes to release their oils. Add the lentils, coconut milk and vegetable stock and bring the pot to a simmer. Turn down the heat and let bubble gently for 25-30 minutes. While the dhal is simmering, grate all the carrots and stir these in. Season. Now make the pickle by finely grating the ginger, chilli, and lemon into a bowl. Coarsely grate the radishes and add them to the bowl. Add the nigella seeds, vinegar, a good squeeze of honey, and half the coriander, roughly torn. Add a pinch of salt and mix everything well. To finish the dhal add the spinach and allow it to wilt a little, stirring in the juice of your leftover lemon and the rest of the coriander, along with any final seasoning. Serve in bowls with rice and dollops of plain yoghurt, and extra pickle on the side. Any leftover dhal can be reheated the next day, and freezes well too.
Recipe taken from Anna Jones’ ‘The Modern Cook’s Year’