Green lentil dal, a curry, not the author

How could I not use this recipe as an excuse to wax a wee bit lyrical about one of my favourite authors, Roald Dahl?

Easily, you may say but then, that is how I roll. Expect the unexpected, I never promised you a rose garden and all that. (Whatever the hell that means, seriously, what does it mean?)

As a child, my fervent reading habit encompassed the works of Roald Dahl. His books were devoured as readily as any white bread that I was able to get my mitts on. (Back in the day, Mum baked homemade bread or we ate brown bread. This once painfully fussy eater hankered after a slice of white bread something fierce.)

Favourite Dahl tomes included the hippy trippy delicious adventures of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, closely followed by Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator and of course, James and the Giant Peach. These books were read cover to cover and more than once. They were then followed by the rest of his children’s novels and poetry. In my later teenage years, I encountered his more grown up ‘Tales of the Unexpected’ in which a story about screaming plants was inked indelibly onto my mind and psyche. To read Dahl is to go on an adventure and end up in a place you never thought you would go.

Indian food is a little like a Roald Dahl tale, an exciting and exotic journey into a diverse world of spice and many varying ingredients. Each bite can reveal a different flavour and aroma. Every spice brings something new to the party. This curry consisting of deep green legumes is gently earthy, with a delicate creamy blend of heat and richness. It is a wonderful addition to an Indian banquet or just as pleasantly, scoffed alone with a heft serving of basmati rice.

On that note, I leave you with my one of my favourite Roald Dahl quotes. (And of course, the recipe.)

‘And above all, watch with glittering eyes the whole world around you because the greatest secrets are always hidden in the most unlikely places. Those who don’t believe in magic will never find it.’


250g green lentils, washed
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic clove, roughly chopped
5 cm ginger, roughly chopped
1/4 cup oil
1 tbl ground cumin
1 1/2 tsps ground coriander
2 tsps salt
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 tbl garam masala
1/4 cup cream

Put the lentils in a large saucepan and add 6 cups of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for about 45 minutes to one hour or until the dal feels soft.The lentils will start to split a little and that is fine.
Drain and reserve the cooking liquid.
Blend the onion, garlic and ginger in a food processor to form a paste or finely chop them together with a knife.
Heat the oil in a medium size saucepan and fry the onion mixture over a high heat, stirring constantly until golden brown.
Add the cumin and coriander and fry for two minutes.
Add the lentils and stir in the salt, chilli powder and garam masala.
Pour 310ml (1 1/4 cup) of the reserved lentil liquid into the pan, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for ten minutes.
Just before serving, check for salt then stir in the cream and simmer for another 2 minutes to heat through.
Serve alone with steamed basmati rice or as part of a feast.

A Cheergerm adaptation from the The Food of India: A journey for food lovers by Murdoch Books. Recipes by Priya Wickramasingh and Carol Selva Rajah.

27 thoughts on “Green lentil dal, a curry, not the author

  1. I remember the first time I read Roald Dahl. I thought I’d found my god of humor and story. And I remember the first time I had an Indian meal. I thought I’d discovered the meaning of food. Since both first experiences, I have been left with the blissful feeling of being both sated and hungry for the next time. That mix is pure magic.
    Your recipe is wonderfully timely (and mouthwatering), as I’ve just procured about twelve ounces of the most heavenly smelling garam masala I’ve yet to come by. This will be a special dish, indeed!

    • I love that you love this magical mix. Your garam masala sounds pretty darned special, I can almost smell it from here. It really is amazing how good this simple curry ends up tasting. (Despite how it may end up looking….)

  2. Windy Mama

    I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never read Roald Dahl. I only know his work through the movies that have been made of his books, may favourite being Matilda. On the other hand, my experience with Indian food is intense but never home made. What I like about this recipe is that there is a minimal number of ingredients and it looks like something I could attempt at home.

    • I have had conversations with friends when one of us talks about a childhood book remembered with love and intensity then someone else will say ‘nope, never read it.’ So many books, so little time! I believe they are making a musical of Matilda which would be quite wonderful. I loved the original Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie as well. Sometimes Indian recipes have a somewhat offputting ingredients list! This is a tasty one, The Yak loves it.

  3. A.PROMPTreply

    Awesome-looking recipe I can’t wait to try out but the Roald Dahl segue is sublime! I love remembering how I too devoured those first books of his, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Great Glass Elevator. It wasn’t until my oldest son was 10 or so that I discovered the rest of Dahl’s books. My son also got hooked by the first too and I was much more adamant about seeking out his reading material than I was my own. I think we had them all by the time we were done!

    • Thanks Mrs P. It’s a great feeling when our progeny love the same books that we did as younglings. Experiencing them all over again (as well as new stories) through someone else’s eyes is rather magical. This is a tasty curry even though it ain’t the purtiest.

    • You are right there! Yes, that book is a great one stop shop overview of Indian food. Such a vast cuisine with so much to explore, so many curries, so little time.

  4. Great recipe! Making a dal from green lentils (my favourite kinda lentil) is a fab idea. Why does it not surprise me that you are a Dahl fan? I love his books, too, and have passed this love on to my son. The Quentin Blake drawings that accompany many of his stories are also as fantastic as Mr Fox.
    Am going to copy that quote – all true!

    • Thanks so much KW, it’s a tasty wee curry. It’s so special to pass on the love of particular books to our loved ones. Oh yes, those Quentin Blake drawings are fantastic!

  5. Mmmm, this looks fantastic and I can just imagine the aroma! I had the Charlie books but my favorite was James and the Giant Peach. Remember the description of him taking bites of the peach? Very sensuous, I thought πŸ™‚

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s