Monday, 15 October 2012

Sri Lankan Dhal

I have had such great memories of eating this particular dhal recipe on a daily basis whilst in Sri Lanka on our honey moon. My husband mark found a little restaurant on Unawatuna beach called the yellow. 
 At first glance it looked like a run down shack, and when you got closer it looked even worse, cleanliness is not really on the agenda in many restaurants there, but if you close you eyes and forget the state of the kitchen you are guaranteed great food. Sri Lankan Dhal differs so much from various indian Dhals, this is due to the abundance of coconuts in Sri Lanka that play a huge role in their cuisine. The curries are lighter, fresher with a gentle kick, mellowed by copious amounts of creamy coconut. I'm not even ashamed to say we ate this dhal at the same spot every day, with coconut sambal , red rice and rotis. This is the sort of dish that makes me want to be a vegetarian, the need for meat depleats with every mouthful. Sri Lankans are magicians when it come to using spice, they can transform the humble lentil to a master piece.

You will need:
300g of red or yellow lentils, the yellow do take longer to break down
1 large  sliced red onion
3 tbsp of coconut oil
1 bruised lemongrass stalk
20 curry leaves
2 tablespoons of Sri Lankan curry powder (please see note)
1 tsp of chilli powder
1 tsp of turmeric powder
1 tsp of cumin powder
2 chopped green chillies
50g of finely crushed garlic
400ml of coconut milk
3 tbsp of sugar
1 cinnamon stick (cassia bark)
1 1/2 tbsp of salt
1 chicken or vegetable stock pot
2 tablespoons of fresh corriander
The juice of a lime
1 Pandan leaf
50g of freshly chopped tomatoes

In a large sauce pan of water boil the lentils until they have just softened and have swollen a little, this should only take 15 minutes. In another saucepan on high, heat the coconut oil and fry the onion and curry leaves until the onions are translucent, add the spices followed by the chillies and garlic. Add the lentils and the lemongrass and pandan leaves back into the pot and add the coconut milk, cassia bark, sugar, stock, salt and tomatoes and simmer for 10-15 minutes until the lentils have broken down. Finish with the juice of a lime and a scattering of corriander. Serve with coconut Sambal.

Sri Lankan curry powder

2 teaspoon corriander seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 teaspoons of fenugreek seeds
1 teaspoon of mustard seeds
1 small cassia bark stick broken into pieces
4 cardamon pods
4 cloves
2 inch piece of pandan leaf
1 teaspoon black peppercorns

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