Comfort daal for cold nights

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Indian food was not one I grew up with because my mother never liked the smell of fenugreek.  Instead it was a flavour I learnt to love, I am embarrassed to admit,  through eating Chicken Tikka Masala ready-meals in the UK. My love for daal though, stems from another time, when we did the section of our motorcycle trip through India.  Our throttle cable had broken and luckily we managed to find the only qualified mechanic in 300km, but had to spend the night in Bilaspur.  Having “Delhi Belly” in mind, I was initially skeptical of the hygiene standards of the only “restaurant” in town, but hunger won over and it ended up being the best daal I have ever had.  And daal quickly became one of my staple comfort foods.

It helps too that daal is so easy to make and perfect for freezing for those weekend nights when you don’t want to cook.  I usually cook up a big batch, and freeze them in single-serve portions.  On a cold winter night, when I get home exhausted from a tough day at the office, I pop these into the microwave with some frozen spinach and peas, and voila, a couple of minutes later, I have a bowl of yummy warm comfort in front of me, and all troubles melt away.

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Sabby’s Comfort Daal

1 onion, coarsely chopped
1 2-cm piece of fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced into 0.2cm slices
250g red lentils, washed
3-4 tomatoes, cut into eighths
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp tumeric powder

Extras:
1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut into

Saute the onion, garlic and ginger in 2 tbsp of vegetable oil over medium heat in a large casserole pan (I usually use my Le Creuset for this), until translucent. Add the curry, cumin and tumeric powder and continue stirring to release the aromas. (At this stage, it is important that you have enough oil in the pan or the powders will burn, so you may have to add a touch more)

Add carrots into mixture and stir for about 1 min, then add 5 cups of water whilst scraping any bits which may have stuck to the bottom of the pan. Season with salt to taste. Bring mixture to boil and simmer for about 10 mins.

If you are adding cauliflower and/or butternut squash to your daal, then throw it in at this point, stir and leave it for 5 mins.   If not, add the lentils and tomatoes, bring to boil and leave to simmer for 10 mins. (Lentils will go in after cauliflower/butternut squash in any case)

If the plan is to cook-and-freeze, then you should take the mixture off the stove at this point as it will be cooked further when you warm it up later when serving.  Otherwise, leave the pot on the stove for a further 10-15mins for a fully cooked warm dinner ready to be served with some rice or chapati.

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