For me, this recipe conveys exactly the message that we want to spread with our blog; that eating a vegan diet doesn't need to be any more difficult or any less delicious than a non vegan one. I've cooked this meal many times for friends and family, where I've made it as part of a simple supper or a more elaborate dinner party, and every time it's always such a crowd pleaser! The secret ingredient to this flavourful dish couldn't be more simple: Patak's Madras Curry Paste. This little shortcut makes the whole process of cooking this daal so quick and easy that we have added in another little recipe to go with it: a refreshing kachumber, which is an Indian salad made with cucumber, tomato, onion, mint and cumin.
A couple of years ago Freya and I spent a month travelling around India, starting in Deli and continuing to Kochi to make our way around Kerala in Southern India. This was an unbelievable trip, and we learnt so much about South Indian food. One memory which always comes to mind when I think of our trip was when we went on a canoe trip where we paddled around the backwaters of Alleppey with a local guide. For lunch he took us back to his house which sat right on the serene backwaters and looked out over a beautiful rice paddy. He and his wife cooked us the most amazing meal served up on a banana leaf. They were the most hospitable people and were so welcoming and friendly; we were totally relaxed! We ate the beautiful food and sat for what felt like hours, just looking out over the rice fields and drinking tea with them. I came back from India with so many beautiful memories like this, it's such a stunning country. In general, the people we met over there were so kind to us, even the ones who had little to offer would share what they could, and we would share back. Although the whole experience was incredible, it certainly hasn't turned me into a guru of Indian cuisine, it has however given me a pretty good idea of what delicious, authentic Indian food should taste like!
One of my favourite things about these two dishes is how well they compliment each other. The daal is smooth, creamy, and spicy. Whilst the kachumber is fresh, crunchy, and cooling. The mix of texture and flavour makes for a delicious combination. We have enhanced this with the additional toppings we add. The dairy free yoghurt adds a cooling respite from the heat of the dish and an extra smoothness to the daal, and the Bombay mix adds extra heat and crunch. However it should be noted, this recipe isn't too spicy, unlike some of the food we ate in India! This is a hot dish, but I would say more of a medium heat. I have cooked it for my Mum who doesn't particularly like her food too spicy, and she loved it. However, If you really do struggle with heat, try removing a tablespoon of the paste from the recipe. I don't recommend this however as you will start to loose a lot of the flavour. If you can, stick with the recommended amount of madras paste, just eat it with more yoghurt and kachumber which will only enhance the flavours more!
You may be wondering why we haven't cooked this with rice. Many daals are definitely best served with rice, however this daal recipe has been especially created so that it is slightly thicker and doesn't need the the rice. With other, more liquidy recipes, the daal needs the rice to soak up some of the moisture. Instead, we love to eat this with a paratha, which unlike naan bread, isn't always made with butter. You can use the paratha instead of cutlery to eat the daal, just as they would do in India. We use 'Shana' frozen paratha from our local Tesco, however if you can't find them, then using chapatis is a great alternative.
This recipe is so quick and easy that we cook it almost on a weekly basis. I have put it down as 45 mins in the recipe, but as you get used to making it, it becomes simpler and quicker. I would say it's best to get the daal started and bubbling away, and then to make the kachumber and place it covered in the fridge. Once that's finished, and around 5 mins before the daal is ready, you can put the paratha on. Doing it this way means everything will be perfectly ready to bring to the table at the same time. It is possible to place the paratha in the oven to stay warm, but they are best eaten asap so that the pastry stays lovely and flakey.
VEGAN DAAL AND KACHUMBER
author: lovely jubley
Dairy Free Yoghury
In a large saucepan with a lid, heat the oil on a medium heat and simmer the onions for 3 minutes until translucent and aromatic
Add the madras paste and the lentils to the onions and stir for 30 seconds until everything is mixed. Make sure to not let it stick and burn
Add the water, tomato, and coconut milk. Stand on a medium heat until bubbling and then turn down to a medium/low heat and cover with the lid
Cook through for 25-35 mins or until the lentils are soft and cooked through, stirring occasionally to ensure it doesn’t stick
While the daal is cooking, make the kachumber
Serve with optional toppings
Roughly chop all the cherry tomatoes, the mint, cucumber, and the red onion and place into a large bowl, mix together with a fork
Add the lemon juice, the cumin, salt and pepper and mix in until all is coated
Cover the bowl and place in the fridge until serving
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