I make this tasty vegetarian dish with yellow split peas instead of red lentils as I like my dhal to have more ‘bite’ but if you prefer a creamier, smoother dhal then use red lentils instead. Be warned, the split pea version takes about three times as long to cook. You could probably speed the process up by cooking the split peas separately in a pan and adding them to the curry when you’ve made the basic sauce but I like the long, slow cold-day cooking thing.
1 large cauliflower cut into florets
3 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
30g fresh ginger, grated
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp mild chilli powder
400g tin chopped tomatoes
200g yellow split peas (or 250g red lentils)
fresh coriander leaves, roughly chopped
crėme frâiche/ sour cream
black onion seeds (nigella)
Heat the oven to 200c. Put the cauliflower florets in a bowl, drizzle over 2 tbsp of the oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Mix well to make sure the cauliflower is evenly coated then tip onto an oven tray and roast for 20-25 minutes until the cauliflower is just cooked and slightly charred. Set aside until required; turn the oven down to 180c.
Heat the rest of the oil in a large oven proof pan and gently cook the onion until it is starting to soften. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli, cumin seeds and mustard seeds and mix well. Continue to cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring continuously to prevent the garlic burning.
Mix the spice powders to a paste with a little water and add to the pan, mixing well to coat the onion mixture. Cook for a couple of minutes until the spices start to smell fragrant.
Add the tomatoes, split peas (or lentils) and also an initial 500ml of water (more will be needed later), stir well and bring to a simmer. Pop a lid on the pan and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1 1/2- 2 hours, checking regularly to make sure the liquid isn’t all being absorbed. Top up the liquid as necessary, This really depends on how much ‘bite’ you like the split peas to have. If using lentils, 500ml water should be enough and the cooking time should only be 30 minutes. NB you can also cook this on the hob.
Add the cauliflower florets to the dhal and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes to allow them to absorb some of the flavour.
Stir through a good big handful of chopped coriander, and serve with my easy peshwari naan and a dollop of sour cream or crème frâiche with a teaspoon of black onion seeds stirred into it.