Last year, a pressing sense of responsibility towards the planet prompted us to sign up for Veganuary. We soldiered on through gamely, experimenting with all sorts of alternative foods, but were not prepared to commit to long-term veganism: the end of our month-long meat and dairy drought was marked by a slap-up full English breakfast on 1st February 2020. We have, however, pledged allegiance to Veganuary again this year and have made sure to include this great recipe from Meera Sodha on the menu. It’s cheap, filling and sees off your father’s sense of deprivation.
450g red lentils
3 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
2 brown onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2cm ginger root, peeled and grated
2 green finger chillies, finely sliced
½ tsp ground turmeric
200ml tinned coconut milk
½ tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 lime, juiced
rice and plain yogurt to serve
Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear, then cover in water and leave to one side. Bash the cardamom pods with a pestle and mortar until cracked.
Put 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a deep lidded saucepan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the cardamom, cinnamon stick and cloves. Stir-fry for a minute, then add the onions. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until the onions are browning and soft, then add the garlic, ginger and green chillies. Stir-fry for another couple of minutes, then remove a third of the mixture and leave it to one side.
Drain the lentils and add to the pan, along with the turmeric and 1 litre of hot water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are soft and creamy. In the meantime, wash the kale and chop the leaves into 5cm strips, discarding the thicker stems. When the lentils are ready, add the coconut milk and 1½ teaspoons of salt, cook for another 5 minutes, then take off the heat. Cover to keep warm.
Put a tablespoon of vegetable oil into a lidded frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the mustard seeds. When they pop, put the reserved onion mixture into the pan and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the kale and desiccated coconut. Stir-fry for a minute, then add 50ml of water and put the lid on. Leave to steam for 4 minutes, then add the lime juice and ½ teaspoon of salt and stir. Put the lid back on and steam for another 2 minutes, or until the kale is soft and tender.
To serve, ladle the dal into bowls and divide the kale over the top. Serve with rice and yogurt.