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Meera Sodha’s Sri Lankan dal


Meera Sodha’s Sri Lankan dal name

This creamy red lentil Sri Lankan dal is offset by spiky “mallum”, or shredded greens cooked with onions, coconut and fresh lime. In Sri Lanka all sorts of different greens are used to make mallum, from chrysanthemum leaves to turnip tops. I used cavolo nero here because it works harmoniously with the coconut and lime, but feel free to play around with spinach, silverbeet, cabbage or whatever greens are in season. Serves 4 .

450g red lentils
3 green cardamom pods
vegetable oil
1 cinnamon stick
3 whole cloves
2 brown onions thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
2cm ginger root, peeled and grated
2 green finger chillies, finely sliced
⅓ tsp ground turmeric 
250g  kale
200ml tinned coconut milk
½ tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 lime, juiced
rice and plain yogurt to serve

Wash the lentils in cold water until the water runs clear, then cover in water and leave to one side. Bash the cardamom pods with a pestle and mortar until cracked, remove the little brown seeds discard green pods.

Put 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil into a deep lidded saucepan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the cardamom, cinnamon stick and cloves. Stir-fry for a minute, then add the onions. Cook for 10 minutes, until the onions are browning and soft, stirring frequently, then add the garlic, ginger and green chillies. Stir-fry for another couple of minutes, then remove a third of the mixture and leave it to one side.

Drain the lentils and add to the pan, along with the turmeric and 1 litre of hot water. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down and simmer for 15-25 minutes, until the lentils are soft and creamy. In the meantime, wash the kale and chop the leaves into 5cm strips, discarding the thicker stems. When the lentils are ready, add the coconut milk and 1½ teaspoons of salt, cook for another 5 minutes, then take off the heat. Cover to keep warm.

Put a tablespoon of vegetable oil into a lidded frying pan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the mustard seeds. When they pop, put the reserved onion mixture into the pan and fry for a couple of minutes, then add the kale and desiccated coconut. Stir-fry for a minute, then add 50ml of water and put the lid on. Leave to steam for 4 minutes, then add the lime juice and ½ teaspoon of salt and stir. Put the lid back on and steam for another 2 minutes, or until the kale is soft and tender.

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