This is based on an Indian dhal recipe, but it takes a pretty big detour from the traditional. Lighter and less heavily spiced, it relies on the earthy intensity of fresh turmeric and the fragrance of fresh curry leaves. I've also braised the lentils to keep more texture and added okra and haloumi so it can stand alone as a main. I'd happily eat this with a little rice and yoghurt as a light dinner in cooler weather, or it would make a great side for spiced roast chicken or simply steamed fish.
2 1/2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
8cm turmeric, finely grated (or 2 tsp ground turmeric)
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
125g Persian red lentils, rinsed
125g split red lentils, rinsed
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt flakes, plus extra
120g haloumi, cut into cubes
10 fresh curry leaves
1 large green chilli, sliced
2 handfuls mint leaves
If you can't find okra, or are not a fan, green beans or peas added towards the end of the cooking would work well.
You can often find okra (as well as fresh curry leaves and fresh turmeric) at Asian grocers.
Any lentils will work fine for this, but the cooking time will vary.
I like the squeaky saltiness of haloumi in this, but paneer would be great too.
1. Add one tablespoon of oil to a wide-based saucepan over medium heat and fry the turmeric and half the garlic for one minute. Add the okra and stir-fry for two minutes.
2. Remove the okra, leaving as much of the garlic and turmeric behind as possible, and add the lentils, cayenne, salt and 800 millilitres of water, stir and simmer for 30 minutes.
3. Return the okra to the pan and cook for 15 minutes until the lentils are quite tender. Adjust the seasoning if necessary and transfer to a serving bowl.
4. Heat half a tablespoon of oil in a small frying pan over medium heat. Add the haloumi and warm through until soft but not coloured. Tip over the lentils.
5. Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the same pan and fry the remaining garlic until lightly golden. Add the curry leaves and cook for 20 seconds until fragrant. Tip over the lentils.
6. Scatter over the chilli and mint and serve.