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This recipe is from internationally acclaimed cook and food writer Ghillie Basan who has very kindly allowed us to share this with you on our website. As well as the author of numerous cookery books, Ghillie runs innovative and inspiring, hands-on cookery workshops from where she lives in a remote outpost of the Scottish highlands – find out more about Ghillie, her books and workshops.
For this recipe you can use brown, red, or yellow lentils (split peas), which are cooked to a porridge consistency.
Heat the ghee in a heavy-based pan. Stir in the onion, garlic, chillies and ginger and fry until fragrant and beginning to colour. Add the sugar and cumin seeds, followed by the turmeric and garam masala, taking care not to burn the spices. Stir in the lentils and coat in the spices and ghee. Pour in the water, mix thoroughly, and bring it to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 35-40 minutes, until thick.
Stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer for a further 30 minutes, until thick and mushy – if at any time the dal seems too dry, you can add more water or coconut milk. Season to taste with salt.
In a small pan, heat the mustard seeds. As soon as they begin to pop, add the curry leaves and chillies. When the chillies begin to darken, stir in the ghee until it melts. Spoon the mixture over the lentils or fold it in until well mixed. Serve the lentils on their own with yogurt and chutney.