Butter chicken, rogan josh and more: Four Indian takeaway inspired dhal recipes

Everyone's favourite curry in another form: Butter chicken dhal.
Everyone's favourite curry in another form: Butter chicken dhal. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Comfort food. It's a little different for everyone. Dishes from your childhood or a snapshot in time that you associate with the needs of the soul as much as the belly. We could measure our lives by the intake of pasta. Or cheese toasties. Or a fudgy brownie with a cup of tea. 

More and more I find myself making dhal – on my spectrum of comfort food it is way up there. The thrifty pulse-based dish is easy to make and freezer-friendly for comfort food emergencies.

Traditionalists will probably be appalled by my smashing together of flavours. I've combined my (virtuous) love of dhal with my (not so virtuous) love of Indian takeaway – the likes of butter chicken, peshwari naan and rogan josh all make an appearance. And honestly, it only adds, not takes away. I've separated most of the elements out so feel free to play around with them.

All recipes serve 4-6 

Butter chicken dhal

When two ultimate comfort foods meet and co-exist. This only improves when the ingredients are left to get to know each other over a 24-hour period. You're welcome.

INGREDIENTS

Dhal

2 brown onions, thinly sliced

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1 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp sweet cayenne pepper

1 tsp paprika

1 ½ tbsp garam masala

1 tsp salt

1 tsp brown sugar

1 tbsp minced ginger

½ tbsp rice bran oil (or other flavourless oil)

2 x 400g cans diced tomatoes

1 cup chicken stock (or vegetable stock)

400ml coconut milk

1 ½ cups red split lentils

2 dried chillies

1 bay leaf

1 tbsp tomato paste

75g butter

To serve

400g shredded roast chicken (optional)

¼ cup mint leaves, chopped

¼ cup coriander leaves, chopped

microherbs if you are feeling fancy (optional)

naan and/or steamed rice

METHOD

1. Add the onion, spices, salt, sugar and ginger to a medium saucepan with half a tablespoon of  rice bran or other flavourless oil. Cook over medium heat until fragrant.

2. Add the remaining dhal ingredients except for the butter and cook for 20 to 25 minutes or until the lentils are beginning to break down. Remove from heat.

3. From here you can serve immediately or cover the pot and let the ingredients get acquainted in the fridge for a few days. You can also stir the chicken through the dhal rather than serve it on top as pictured.

4. To serve, simply warm through over low-medium heat, add the butter and stir until melted and fully incorporated into the dhal mixture. Scatter with herbs and serve piping hot with naan and/or rice. (Top with shredded roast chicken if you didn't add to the dhal mixture as per the previous step.)

Tomato, coriander and ginger dhal with panch poran roasted tomatoes. Dhal recipes for Good Food April 2019. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

Tomato dhal topped with yoghurt and panch phoran roasted tomatoes. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Tomato, coriander and ginger dhal with panch phoran tomatoes

Think tomato, coriander and ginger soup meets Ottolenghi's hot tomatoes, cold yoghurt. Combining the two with yellow split peas is as comforting as a hug from your best friend. 

INGREDIENTS

⅓ cup flavourless oil 

1 heaped tbsp cumin seeds, roughly crushed using a mortar and pestle

15 curry leaves

8cm knob of ginger, grated

1 heaped tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1½ tsp salt

2 x 400g cans crushed tomatoes

3 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1½ cups yellow split peas, rinsed thoroughly

½ cup coconut cream (optional)

Slow-roasted tomatoes

400g cherry tomatoes on the vine

1 tbsp flavourless oil

2 tbsp panch phoran spice blend (I used Herbies)

10 curry leaves

To serve

½ cup to ¾ cup cooked rice per person

1 cup natural yoghurt

¼ cup coriander leaves, roughly chopped (optional)

METHOD

1. Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the oil and swirl to coat the base. Add the cumin seeds and curry leaves and allow to sizzle for 20 seconds. Add the ginger and stir well.

2. Reduce the heat to medium and add ground coriander, cayenne and salt. Stir and saute for about five minutes. Add tomatoes and stock, stir to combine then add the split peas.

3. Cover and simmer for 50 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent catching. (If too much liquid has evaporated and the dhal is looking too thick, add a dash more water or stock.) 

4. About halfway through the dhal's cooking time, preheat the oven to 170C and line a baking tray with baking paper. Place the tomatoes on the paper, drizzle over the oil and the panch phoran spice blend and gently massage to coat the tomatoes. Roast in the oven and for 25 minutes or until blistered and slightly shrunken. When the tomatoes seem almost done, add the curry leaves to the tray for the last five or so minutes of cooking so that they crisp up.

5. Once the lentils are cooked, stir through the coconut cream (if using). To serve, add rice to bowls and top with the dhal. Season, dollop over the yoghurt and top with tomatoes and any oil from the roasting tray, curry leaves and chopped coriander (if using). Serve warm.

Peshwari topped pumpkin, coconut and chilli dhal recipe. Dhal recipes for Good Food April 2019. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

Coconut red lentil dhal with curry-roasted pumpkin and peshwari topping. Photo: Katrina Meynink

Peshwari topped pumpkin, chilli and coconut dhal

All the elements of peshwari naan (flatbread stuffed with nuts and dried fruit) combined with the comforting heat of the dhal, the hit of chilli and the sweet musky taste of curry-spiced pumpkin.

INGREDIENTS

Peshwari topping

2 tbsp desiccated coconut

200g flaked almond, toasted

½ cup sultanas, roughly chopped

¼ cup coriander, chopped

¼ cup mint leaves, chopped

1 green chilli, sliced (remove the seeds to reduce the heat)

Roasted pumpkin and greens

½ butternut pumpkin, sliced into 3cm thick slices

1 ½ tbsp ghee (or coconut oil)

1 tbsp Madras-style curry powder (or medium-strength curry powder)

1 bunch broccolini, washed

Dhal

1 ½ cups split red lentils, rinsed

50g finely grated ginger

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 ½ tsp Sri Lankan curry powder

1 cinnamon quill

8 fresh curry leaves

500ml coconut milk

1 onion, thinly sliced

juice of 1 lime, plus extra lime wedges to serve

350ml vegetable stock

Onions

1 tsp rice bran (or flavourless) oil

1 tsp brown mustard seeds

1 red onion, thinly sliced

5 curry leaves

METHOD

1. Combine the topping ingredients in a small bowl and set aside until ready to serve.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C.

3. Toss the pumpkin with the ghee and curry powder and place the pieces on a large baking tray lined with baking paper. Roast for about 30 to 40 minutes or until golden, caramelised and cooked through. If the spice coating looks like it is burning, reduce the temperature to 160C.) Add the broccolini to the tray for the last eight to 10 minutes of cooking.

4. Meanwhile, make the dhal. Combine the dhal ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan and over medium heat. Simmer, covered, until the lentils are breaking down (about 20 to 25 minutes).

5. For the onion mixture add the rice bran oil to a small saucepan. Add mustard seeds, red onion and curry leaves and cook, stirring constantly to prevent catching, until the onion has softened and the mixture is fragrant.

6. To serve, add the dhal, pumpkin and broccolini to a serving platter. Top with the onion mixture and peshwari topping. Serve with steamed rice (optional).

Rogan josh dhal recipe with throw-it-on raita. Pictured without optional lamb. Dhal recipes for Good Food April 2019. Please credit Katrina Meynink. Good Food use only.

Rogan josh dhal (pictured without optional lamb). Photo: Katrina Meynink

Rogan josh dhal with throw-it-on raita

I know I shouldn't. I can feel the rage of traditional cooks as they shake their heads. BUT this is so, so, so good.

I used all the rogan josh flavours here and went out on a limb and used exactly the same spice base to slow-cook some lamb shoulder (about 1kg) to have on top – feel free to add as an optional extra. Rogan josh on rogan josh is a good thing. Especially with an icy cold beer and a plate of pappadums. 

Rather than make a raita I throw everything on top and keep the cucumber a bit chunkier – it adds a great texture.

INGREDIENTS

Dhal

1 tbsp ghee

2 red onions, peeled, sliced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

10cm piece ginger, finely chopped

1 cinnamon quill

½ tbsp turmeric

1 ½ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder

1 tsp ground coriander

5 cardamom pods, bruised

2 bay leaves

1 ½ cup yellow split peas

1 litre chicken or vegetable stock

1 x 400g can crushed tomatoes

Throw-it-on raita

1 cup natural yoghurt

1 lebanese cucumber, julienned 

1 tsp panch phoran spice mix (or a mix of nigella seeds and cumin seeds)

4 to 5 fresh curry leaves

METHOD

1. Add the ghee, onion, garlic and ginger to a medium saucepan over medium heat and cook until the onion is soft and the mixture is fragrant. Add the remaining ingredients and reduce the heat to medium-low.

2. Cover and simmer for 40 to 50 minutes, checking regularly. (If too much liquid has reduced, add a splash of chicken stock and continue cooking.)

3. Season generously, place in a serving bowl and top with the yoghurt, cucumber, curry leaves and spices. Serve hot with pappadums.