Aubergine Dal with Crispy Cauliflower, Green Chutney, Dosa and a Crunchy Salad

This rich and substantial aubergine dal served with all of the accompaniments is a vegetarian dinner party spread of dreams.

From the book

A Love of Eating: Recipes from Tart London by &
A Love of Eating: Recipes from Tart London
Fresh, wholesome recipes full of seasonal ingredients
Inspiration for fuss-free weeknight cooking and weekend entertaining
Beautiful cakes and sweet treats

Introduction

This is a wonderful dish for a crowd, and if you use vegetable stock it’s fully vegetarian. Make a quarter of the amount of just the dal for a quick weeknight dinner for two, or go the whole hog with all the sides if entertaining. Well, we say the whole hog, but actually the sides are quick and easy, and they make such a difference as it’s really all about the toppings here – something smoky and nutritious (the cauliflower), something fresh and crunchy (the salad), something creamy and refreshing (the yoghurt) and something crispy for dipping (the dosa). In India the dal is often a side dish, but here it is very happily the main event. You can always add a side of rice, although we feel it is hearty enough already as it is packed with lentils, which are a very good source of protein (make sure you soak your lentils, making it easier on the digestion).

Serves 6-8

Ingredients

1 tbsp coconut oil
2 onions, chopped
5cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
4 cloves garlic, sliced
2 cinnamon sticks
1 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tsp coriander seeds, crushed
1–3 (depending on how hot you like it) bird’s eye chillies, deseeded and chopped
20 curry leaves
large bunch of coriander, stalks chopped and leaves kept whole
1 tbsp ground turmeric
1 large aubergine, cubed
handful of dried apricots, chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
350g lentils (use a mixture of red, orange and yellow)
squeeze of honey (optional)
salt and pepper
For the green chutney:
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
5 tbsp yoghurt
small bunch of coriander
small bunch of mint
1 lime, zest and juice
For the crispy cauliflower:
1 good-sized whole cauliflower
drizzle of olive oil
1–2 tsp each coriander and cumin seeds, crushed
2 cloves garlic, crushed
For the dosa:
100g gram (chickpea) flour
200ml water
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
a little coconut oil
For the crunchy salad:
½ cucumber, peeled and seeds scooped out, then roughly chopped
1 red chilli, sliced
2 plum tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 small red onion, diced
handful of mint and coriander leaves
juice of 1 lime
good drizzle of olive oil
1 tbsp coconut oil
4 cloves of garlic, sliced into thin chips
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
1 large red chilli, thinly sliced
small bunch of curry leaves

Instructions

1. First make the chutney. Put the coconut into a small bowl and just cover with boiling water. Leave for about 20 minutes to cool and soften, then drain and add to a blender with the remaining chutney ingredients. Blitz until smooth. (This is best served after a few hours resting in the fridge.)

2. Now for the dal: heat the coconut oil in a large pan and cook the onions, the ginger, the garlic and cinnamon over a low heat until the onions are translucent. Increase the heat then add the cumin and coriander seeds, bird’s eye chillies, curry leaves and chopped coriander stalks and fry for a good 5 minutes, stirring to stop anything catching.

3. Next add the turmeric, aubergine and apricots and cook for a further 5 minutes, allowing the aubergine to caramelise a little, followed by the tomatoes, coconut milk, stock and lentils. Leave to simmer for 45 minutes, then taste and season with salt and pepper and a squeeze of honey, if desired.

4. Meanwhile, make the crispy cauliflower. Preheat the oven to 220°C/ gas 7. Put the whole cauliflower into a large bowl and toss with the olive oil, coriander and cumin seeds, garlic, salt and pepper. Place on a baking tray and roast for about 30 minutes until nice and crispy. (Alternatively you can break the cauliflower into florets before roasting – just as delicious!)

5. While the cauliflower is in the oven, prepare the dosa by mixing all the ingredients together in a bowl until combined. Heat a wide frying pan with a little oil (we use coconut oil) over a medium heat. When hot, add a small ladle of the mixture and tilt the pan quickly, to spread the mixture around. Once it starts to crisp and has bubbles (after a few minutes), flip it and cook the other side until crispy. Repeat until you have used up all the batter.

6. Mix together the ingredients for the crunchy salad in a bowl, drizzle with the lime juice and oil and season.

7. When you are almost ready to serve, make up a tarka for the top of the dal. Melt the coconut oil in a pan and add the garlic, cumin seeds, nigella seeds, chilli and curry leaves. Cook over a low heat, stirring, until the garlic turns golden. Add this sizzling to the top of the dal. 8. Scatter the dal with coriander leaves and serve with the dosa, crispy cauliflower, chutney and salad.

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