A Gentle, Fragrant Lemongrass Dal Recipe Designed To Comfort

By Anna Jones
Photo / Supplied.

This soothing dal dish is elevated with aromatics.

The comfort of dal is unmatched, and this gently spiced one comforts as well as lifts, thanks to some lemongrass, greens and lemon. The real star here, though, is the garlic temper, the garlic, red onion, mustard seeds and curry leaves which are spooned over the dal to give tiny pockets of flavour on each spoon.

This dal is inspired by one from Cynthia Shanmugalingam of Rambutan that I’ve been making a lot.


Serves 4
1 tsp coriander seeds, bashed

1 tsp cumin seeds

300g red split lentils, rinsed

6 garlic cloves, peeled, 3 left whole, 3 finely sliced

2 lemongrass stalks, bashed 1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 400ml tin coconut milk

200g greens, like spinach or shredded chard

2 Tbsp coconut oil

1 small red onion, peeled and finely sliced

1 tsp black mustard seeds

20 fresh curry leaves

1 unwaxed lemon

Chapatis or rotis, to serve

Toast the spices

  1. In a saucepan big enough to cook your dal, toast 1 teaspoon bashed coriander seeds and 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, then tip into a small bowl.

Rinse and cook the lentils

  1. Rinse 300g red split lentils in cold water, then drain, put them in a pan and cover with 1 litre water (about 1cm over the top of the lentils). Add a good pinch of salt and bring to the boil.
  2. Once boiling, skim off any scum that has risen to the top, then reduce to a simmer. Add 3 whole cloves of garlic, 2 bashed lemongrass stalks, 1 teaspoon ground turmeric, ½ teaspoon Kashmiri chilli powder, the toasted coriander and cumin seeds and cook for 15 minutes, or until the lentils are velvety soft.

Add the coconut milk

  1. Once the lentils are cooked, turn the heat back up to medium, add 400ml coconut milk and 200g spinach and cook for another 10 minutes, until creamy.

Make the temper

  1. In a small pan heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil over a high heat, add 1 small red onion, peeled and finely sliced, and cook for 5-6 minutes until golden brown. Add 3 finely sliced cloves of garlic, 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds and 20 curry leaves and cook for 1-2 minutes more until the curry leaves are crispy and shiny.

Finish the dal

  1. Spoon the dal into bowls, top with the garlic and curry leaf temper, add a squeeze of lemon juice to lift everything and eat with roti or chapati.

Recipe from Easy Wins: 12 flavour hits, 125 delicious recipes, 365 days of good eating by Anna Jones. Published by 4th Estate, $60, out now.

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