I can’t leave a recipe alone. It is rare that I will follow a recipe to the letter, I suppose I am stubborn and believe I know better. If a chocolate cake recipe stipulates caster sugar then I know dark muscovado will give it a better taste. I am right though, aren’t I? With savoury food I will nearly always change the spices and herbs based upon what I think is better, or what is in the cupboard. Like I said, I’m stubborn.
This is not usually the case for childhood recipes. You’ll find me hard pressed to change how my Mum makes chicken curry and it is out of the question to add something different to the classic rotli which it is eaten with (whole spices? add garlic? not a chance).
The other night I did fancy messing with my usual recipe for tuwar daal though, I had a big squash and a craving for a coconut-based daal, so I decided it wouldn’t be so bad to break with tradition. Just don’t tell my Mum, OK?
Adding roasted squash and coconut milk makes this daal even more homely and comforting, and it is perfect for a bitterly cold day. I used toor/tuwar daal here, it is an oil soaked daal which is quicker to cook. You can sub for red lentils, just cook them according to the packet instructions.
Serve the daal with soft, warm naan or buttered basmati rice. I like to add yoghurt on top or serve it with my favourite mango or aubergine pickle.
Daal with roasted butternut squash and coconut milk
Serves 2 with leftovers
300g butternut squash (about half a large one)
1 cup of toor daal
4 cups of cold water
1 fresh tomato, roughly chopped
2cm chunk of ginger, grated finely
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 dried red chilli
for the vaghaar
1/2 tsp whole cumin seeds
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
pinch of hing/asafoedita
150ml / half a can of coconut milk
rice or naan to serve
Chop the squash into 2cm cubes then add to a roasting tray. Cover with oil and sprinkle over the salt and chilli flakes. Roast in a hot oven for around 15 – 20 minutes until it is cooked through. Set aside whilst the lentils cook.
Put the lentils in a saucepan and wash in a few changes of warm water. Drain and add 4 cups of cold water. Add in the tomato, ginger, garlic and dried chilli. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid. Keep an eye on it as it may bubble over. Cook for around 40 minutes until soft but still with some bite.
Heat the vegetable oil in a small saucepan and then add the whole spices once it is quite hot. Once the mustard seeds start to pop, pour this carefully into the daal. It will spit, so be careful! Leave to calm down for a few minutes.
Uncover and then stir in half a can of coconut milk and the squash. Season to taste and simmer until the lentils are totally soft. Serve with rice or naan, and with pickle or yoghurt.