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A well-made dhal is a complete treasure; it is a bowl of soft gold. A dhal can warm us like a fire, with its spice; and it can soothe and comfort us, like a favourite blanket might have done in the past. This dhal is nothing more than a few handfuls of red lentils that have been gently simmered with some lovely spices and some greens. However, it always amazes me how much depth and flavour it has. I like to serve piping-hot bowlfuls with and some fermented cabbage and some young salad leaves from the greenhouse.
1 big handful of curly kale leaves, stalks removed
1 handful of chard leaves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 leek, rinsed and sliced
2 - 3 large garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 medium hot red chilli thinly sliced
1⁄2 tablespoon cumin seeds, coarsely crushed
1⁄2 tablespoon coriander seeds, coarsely crushed
1 small piece of fresh turmeric peeled and thinly sliced
3 cardamom pods, bashed
6 curry leaves
250g (9oz) red lentils rinsed
1 litre water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat a large, heavy-based pan over a low–medium heat. Add the spices and let them toast gently for a minute or so. Tip them into a pestle and mortar and crush them coarsely. Return the pan to the heat, add oil and when hot, add the leek, garlic, chilli and turmeric. Cook, stirring regularly, for 8–10 minutes, until the leek is soft but not coloured.
Add the spices back to the pan along with the lentils and curry leaves. Fry them for a few moments then add the water, bring to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring regularly, for about 25 minutes. Roughly chop the kale and chard and stir this into the lentils. Place a lid on the pan and cook for a further 5 – 10 minutes or until the greens are tender and the lentils are soft and the dhal has thickened. If things look a little dry at any time, add a splash more water. Season the dhal well with salt and pepper, remove from the heat and bring to the table. To serve, spoon the dhal into warm bowls and top with sauerkraut, some winter salad leaves and serve with flatbreads or pitta.