Dal with peanuts & star anise

img_6949.jpgThese cold evenings call for a good curry with dal. This is a Gujarati dish and is different due to its sweet/sour flavours caused by the mix of star anise, lemon and a tiny bit of honey or jaggary. I made this last night with whole cauliflower mussalam and a yummy kachumbar made from my own sprouted mung beans (recipe to follow soon). It’s worth getting the toor or toover dal instead of the red lentils as they have a good texture. You can get them at most Indian grocers. They do however require either soaking overnight  or for an hour in boiling water.

Serves 4 as a part of a substantial main,  halve quantities for 2 people

300 g toor lentils
2 star anise
3 tbsp rapeseed oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
3/4 tsp cumin seeds
4 whole cloves
1 hot green chilli, split in half
2 sprigs or 15 fresh or dried curry leaves
3 large tomatoes, chopped (not tinned)
1/2 tsp turmeric or 1 inch fresh turmeric peeled and diced
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp lemon juice
a good handful of peanuts in their skins, crushed


Soak the lentils as above. Rinse until the water runs clear and cover with 2 inches of water, add the star anise and bring to the boil. They will take about an hour to cook; you can tell when they are ready as they are squishy but not disintegrating.

Meanwhile prepare the tempering sauce. Heat up 2 tbsp oil in a medium frying pan. Add the cumin seeds, mustard seeds, cloves, chilli and 8-10 curry leaves. Stir fry a couple of minutes until aromatic and then add the tomatoes. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes until the tomatoes are browning and jammy in consistency. Add the honey/jaggary, turmeric, salt and lemon juice and cook for a couple more minutes before turning off the heat.

Once the lentils are cooked, give them a good stir. They should be thick, like a winter soup, not runny like red lentil dals. Add the tempering mix and give it all a good stir.

Put the last tbsp of oil into a small frying pan and quickly stir fry the remaining curry leaves and peanuts until crisp.

Dish up the dal and scatter the peanut and curry leaf garnish on top. Delicious with rice, chapati, vegetarian or even a meat curry, especially kale and potato curry. And with the cauliflower of course!IMG_6952

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