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August or November

It has been so cold lately. Definitely not August weather. I mean, November might be a bit of an exaggeration but as I write this, I'm sitting in warm sweat-pants and I have a shrug over my shoulders because there is a chill in the air. I may also be drinking a cold drink but let's just ignore that for a second. I'll go get a cup of tea in a sec.

This summer has been a bit of a strange one, I don't know if that's come across in my previous posts. This summer started nice, hot and promising. But July was wetter than December and August so far has had a spattering of hot, sunny days but not many. I am disappointed but I had a lovely few days in France in June and I'm going to Italy again in September so hopefully the weather there will be nice as well.

One day last week it was so cold that I just wanted a good hearty comforting meal. So I made daal. This recipe changes every time I make it. It's a great "use what you have" recipe. You can overload it with vegetables, you can add meat, you can serve it as a side dish or a main meal... the possibilities are endless. I served it as a main and made the meat secondary. It's not the first time I've done this but I think this is the tastiest time I've done this.

I find daal very mushy so I need a good naan bread or meat on the side for a change of texture. You can absolutely serve this as a vegetarian (or even vegan) meal. The Mr. was getting a bit frustrated with the lack of meat in previous meals though so I though I'd better put some meat with this one.

Spicy Daal with Tandoori Chicken

  • 250g red lentils

  • 2 large onions

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced

  • 2 tsp ground cumin

  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder

  • 1 tsp garam masala

  • 1 tbsp madras powder

  • 1 tsp turmeric

  • 2 tsp mustard seeds

  • 700ml vegetable stock

  • Small handful of chopped coriander

  • salt and pepper

For the chicken:

  • 300g plain or Greek yoghurt

  • 1 tsp paprika

  • 1 tsp madras powder

  • 2 tsp garam masala

  • 1/2 tsp turmeric

  • juice of half a lemon

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

First marinate the chicken. Mix all the tandoori spices together with the yoghurt and lemon and leave it to marinate the chicken in the fridge for a couple of hours. You can leave it longer but I wouldn't leave it longer than 12 hours. When you're ready to start prepping the daal, bring it out of the fridge to come up to room temperature.

Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C. Dice one of the onions and fry it in a pot with a little vegetable oil until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots and cook until soft. Add the lentils and then stir in all of the spices except the mustard seeds. Make sure everything is coated well and start adding the stock little by little, stirring as you go. I like to make this like a risotto, adding more stock once the lentils have soaked everything up.

Once the first ladel of stock has gone in, lay the chicken on a wire rack with a baking tray underneath. I would cover the tray itself with foil so that the cleanup later is easier. Put the tray of chicken in the oven for half an hour. You want it to be cooked through and slightly charred on top.

Slice the other onion into strips, all the while keeping an eye on the daal. Heat a pan with oil in it and fry the onions until they are crispy. Drain them on a paper towel and set aside. When the daal is ready, heat the oil that was frying the onions and add the mustard seeds. When you start to hear them popping, pour the entire contents into the daal and stir it round.

Stir the chopped coriander through the daal once it's off the heat. Lay the cooked chicken on top and sprinkle over your crispy onions. Serve with a really nice raita and naan bread or just dig in as is.


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