Dal is a favorite of ours and we have loved our visits to Sri Lanka over the years so when our local book store Words Bookstore and Cafe picked Meera Sodha’s cookbook Fresh India for the local cookbook gathering… the first recipe I tried from this lovely vegetarian cookbook was the Sri Lankan Dal with Coconut and Lime Kale.
A simple straight forward recipe that’s easy to prepare, lightly spiced and wont leave you feeling like you need a nap afterwards. Even though the recipes states four servings, I think you could stretch the servings to six… but then, it really depends on your appetite. If you have time, try make your own coconut milk with freshly grated coconut, it’s pretty simple. Sometimes I keep freshly grated coconut in the freezer, so when the need arises I have some at hand. I also stock tinned coconut milk for convince too.
Adding another dimension of flavor, this Sri Lankan dal is topped with a nutritious “mallum” (meaning mix in Sri Lanka ), the recipe uses kale but also suggests trying other greens like spinach or cabbage.
If you are a dal fan, you might also like to try this dal makani recipe and the easy smoking technique to add a more authentic taste to the dish. However, you might find yourself needing a nap after this one.
Sri Lankan Dal with Coconut and Lime Kale
Recipe adapted from the cookbook Fresh India, by Meera Sodha.
450g red lentils
2 tablespoons coconut oil
3 cardamom pods, cracked using a pestle and mortar
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
2 medium brown onions, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 green finger chillies, finely sliced
1/3 teaspoon ground turmeric
200ml tinned coconut milk or homemade coconut milk
1 and 1/2 teaspoons of sea salt
For the Kale Mallum:
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
250g kale, washed, discard thick stem and cut into leaves into 5cm strips.
2 tablespoons of freshly grated coconut or use desiccated coconut
juice of 1 lime
1/2 teaspoon of sea salt
How to make:
Place lentils into a sieve and wash until water runs clear. Place lentils into a large bowl, cover with water and set aside while continuing with the recipe.
Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over medium heat until hot, add the cardamom, cinnamon and cloves. Stir-fry for about a minute, or until fragrant. Add the onions, cook for about 10 minutes stirring frequently, or until onions are soft and golden brown.
Next, add in the garlic, ginger and green chili, stir-fry for about 2 minutes. Then, remove a third of the onion mixture and set aside. Should you remove any of the whole spices while carrying out this step, add them back into the saucepan.
Drain the lentils and place into the saucepan. Add the ground turmeric and pour in 1 liter of water. Increase the heat and bring to a boil then turn heat to a simmer. Cook the lentils for about 20 minutes, or until soft. Once cooked pour in the coconut milk and add the sea salt to the lentils, stir and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and keep warm.
Meanwhile, add the coconut oil into a lidded frying pan, heat over medium until hot. Add the mustard seeds and cook until they pop. Next, add the reserved onion mixture and stir fry for a few minutes. Add in the kale and grated coconut and stir fry for a few minutes then add about 3 tablespoons of water. Cover pan with lid and stem for about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in lime juice, add salt then stir. Cover with a lid and steam for a further 2 minutes until the kale is tender.
Ladle the dal into individual bowls and divide the kale over the top. Serve with rice and yoghurt.
Tip: Make the Dal a day ahead and prepare the kale mallum before serving.