today I’m gonna take you to Sri Lanka, where I’ve been 5 years ago. I remember that this trip was my first “long-distance-trip” and I was so nervous and excited when I left to the airport with my backpack full of joyful anticipation. Visiting a country for the first time, is something so magical. You are not sure what to expect and with which feelings and memories you gonna leave this place. And while I love getting to know countries by visiting certain places and by talking to the people living there, I particularly prefer to immerse in a new cultur with local food. All the places I’ve visited over the last years, are associated to certain dishes, ingredients and spices. And let’s be honest – the best souvenirs you can take home with you, are recipes and food inspirations. Not only are those recipes able to bring you back in time and to remember you of places and moments of your journey, but they will also heal you, when you are feeling pangs of wanderlust.
The dish I connect with my trip to Sri Lanka is Dhal. After landing in Sri Lanka’s capital Colombo and exploring the city life, we took the train from Colombo to the rainy and foggy tea region around Ella, where the temperatures dropped quite a bit and I remember that I was freezing so badly. I guess our host recognised me shaking and so she cooked homemade Dhal. I didn’t know this dish before and at the beginning it didn’t really looked appealing to me. But when I had my first spoon of Dhal, I was thrilled by the softness of the red lentils combined with the golden mix of spices.
Besides of foggy tea plantations, Sri Lanka brings much more memories to my mind: Beautiful and never ending beaches with no one else around in the South of the Island; busy streets and colorful markets in the cities; beautiful decorated temples covered with the smell of incense sticks or wild elefants you can watch while taking a safari tour through one of the huge and divers Nationalparks. But no matter what you do and where you go in Sri Lanka, there is always delicous food. From fried bananas to spicy curries and dhal – I loved every dish I had in Sri Lanka.
So today I’ve decided to share my recipe for dhal to satisfy all itchy feet out there. What I really like about this red lentil dhal is the creamy texture, which is due to the combination of cooked lentils and coconut milk, and the spices, which makes this dish so interesting and which gives this beautiful color. I like to serve dhal with some fried leek and of course a soft and homemade naan bread.
Red Lentil Dhal:
- 2 cups red lentils thoroughly rinsed until water runs clear
- 2 cm fresh ginger (minced)
- 3 garlic cloves (minced)
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1 can coconut milk
- 1 red chili
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp grounded turmeric
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 cups flour (all-purpose flour)
- 1 cup yogurt (dairy-free)
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 5 garlic cloves (minced)
- 2 tbsp butter (dairy-free, melted) and some extra for frying the Naan Bread
- In a large bowl combine flour, yogurt, baking powder, salt and garlic powder. Knead the ingredients until fully combined.
- Wrap the dough in cling wrap and let it rest in the refrigerator for about 30 min.
- Put butter and garlic in a little pan and fry until garlic gets golden (1-2 min). Put aside for later. Meanwhile you can start cooking the Dhal.
- When dough is ready, put it on a floured surface and divide into 6 even-sized balls. Gently form flat breads with your hands. Make sure that the dough is of an even thickness and not too thin. It needs to be about 10mm thick to be soft. When working with the dough and it seems too sticky, lightly dust both the dough and your hands with flour – this will make it easier to work with.
- Melt some butter in a pan and make sure your pan is hot before placing the first naan in. When you are ready to cook the naan, turn down the heat to medium and add the first naan.You should see it almost instantly start to bubble. When this happens turn the bread over and cook the other side. You may have to adjust the heat from time to time to prevent burning.
- Stack the naan bread on a plate and brush each naan with garlic butter we set aside before (step 3). Cover your naan breads with another plate until ready to eat.
- Crush coriander seeds, mustard seeds and chili in the mortar. Mix crushed spices with turmeric and cumin.
- In a large saucepan heat the oil then fry garlic and ginger on a medium heat for around 1-3 minutes, until golden brown.
- Add spices from step 1 and stir well.
- Add lentils, fry briefly while stirring.
- Now add the vegetable broth and stir. Bring to boil and then reduce to a low heat and cover for around 20 minutes until the lentils are cooked, stirring occasionally. It is important to keep an eye on them throughout. If they have absorbed all the liquid, just add a bit more water. Different brands can take longer to cook so you may have to adjust your cooking time accordingly and add more water if necessary.
- Once lentils are cooked, add coconut milk and let simmer for another 5-10 min.
- Season to taste.
- Serve with Naan Bread and enjoy!