LETTUCE, COCONUT AND MINT DAL
This is my dal for the summer, a Pitta-soothing dal with the cooling tastes of coconut and mint layered on Pitta-balancing red split lentils AKA mansoor dal. I made it for a quick lunch one day when our friend Carley, who looks after our dogs (and trains us in the process), came round. Carley is a self-confessed “lunch forgetter” who loves her work so much she puts everything else first. She loved it, which was a surprise for her since spices evoke hot-spicy to her which she’s not attracted to (probably a good thing as Carley is a #Pitta redhead!) — she wished she could cook in the same way. It’s easy, I said! She wasn’t convinced, as cooking with spices has always seemed complicated to her. So I cooked it again to make sure I’d remembered what I’d done correctly, wrote it all down and sent it to her. She’s cooked it a few times since and it’s now part of her repertoire — and a great one for the insulated flask!
2 cups red split lentils
5 cardamom pods, bashed/bruised (use your teeth, the back of a knife or spoon, or a pestle and mortar)
1 can coconut milk
1 large lettuce, washed and cut into chunks
1 small handful mint leaves, rough chopped
1 litre (4 cups) water
1½ tbs of ghee, or use coconut oil or a quality cooking oil
½ tbsp mustard seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1½ tsp ground ginger
1½ tsp ground garam masala
1½ tsp ground coriander
1 pinch asafoetida (hing) - optional but recommended!
1 tsp sea salt
Good grind black pepper
Rinse the red split lentils thoroughly, drain and add to a large cooking pot with a litre of water and the bruised cardamom seeds.
Bring to the boil then simmer, lid on, for about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, measure all of the ground spices into a cup.
Heat a frying pan with 1½ tablespoons of ghee on medium-high. Add the mustard seeds and sauté for a minute until they start to sizzle and pop. Add the cup of powdered spices and sauté for another minute until fragrant, being careful not to burn them — better to pull the spices off the heat early the first time and keep practising on future attempts.
Use a spatula to transfer the tarka (sautéed spices) into the pot of lentils. Add the coconut milk, salt, and pepper and mix well.
While it comes up to a simmer again, taste and adjust seasoning, and add freshly boiled water if you want a looser dal.
Fold in the chopped lettuce and half the mint, simmer for a minute longer and then turn off the heat.
Serve immediately sprinkled with the remaining mint.
East by West tips:
I’ve made enough for 3-4 servings in order to use up a whole can of coconut milk. You can instead halve or even quarter this recipe and use half or a quarter of a block of creamed coconut accordingly. This recipe is also deliciously cooling with fresh coriander leaves.
To use this recipe in autumn/winter, the Vata-Kapha time of year: swap the coconut for fresh tomatoes, the extra half teaspoon of ground coriander for ground cumin and the mint for parsley, oregano or thyme which are balancing for Vata and Kapha but can be aggravating for Pitta!