This is a fairly easy, slightly sweet and spicy – but not too hot – curry recipe that manages to be super healthy, tasty and easy all at the same time. It’s a poshed-up version of the ‘lentil dal’ I used to make constantly as a student, which is a great comfort food.
It’s also a great storecupboard meal and you can replace the spinach with frozen peas if that’s all you have in (this will also be cheaper, though not quite as nice). You could make it with red lentils if you prefer, but I’ve slightly fallen in love with the flavour of channa dal, which is a type of split, hulled chickpea (from what I’ve read, it’s a smaller kind of chickpea native to India, so not identical to its larger cousin of hummous and falafel fame).
The curry is fairly low in fat and the salt level is entirely in your control. We served with basmati rice and the two wholemeal wraps leftover from last night’s meal, but you could make it even healthier (though not cheaper, sadly) by serving with brown rice.
Tarka dal (serves 3) 47p per portion
- 125g channa dal, rinsed 25p
- 1/4 tsp turmeric 1p
- 1 tbsp grated ginger (or dried if that’s all you have) 5p
- 1 small onion, chopped 3p
- 1 clove garlic, crushed 3p
- 1 tbsp vegetable oil 2p
- 1 fresh green chilli 13p (optional, just adjust dried chilli accordingly)
- 1 tsp curry powder (I used Madras) 1p
- 1 tsp ground cumin 5p
- 1 tsp ground coriander 4p
- 1/8 pack creamed coconut 13p
- 1 tbsp mango chutney (mine was homemade, a similar amount bought would cost about 15p)
- 150g fresh spinach 45p
- 1/2 tsp dried crushed chilli 5p
- salt, to taste (less than 1p)
Put the channa dal on to boil with around double the volume of water, for 30-40 minutes, or until tender. Keep an eye on it and add a little more water if it needs it. You’ll end up with a thick, soup-like mixture. Add the creamed coconut and mango chutney and allow to melt in (NOTE – I mean creamed coconut, which is solid, NOT coconut cream). Add salt here – you need it with dried pulses, which literally taste of nothing before you salt them.
About 30 minutes in, heat the oil in a frying pan to a medium heat and add the onions. Fry for a few minutes until starting to colour, then add the ginger, garlic and fresh chilli. Cook for a further minute. Add the rest of the spices, mix into the oil, then pour over the cooked channa dal. Add the spinach and cook for several minutes more, until the spinach has all wilted and everything is cooked in together. Serve with rice, flatbreads, yoghurt and/or stir-fried vegetables.
I actually made this the night before, since I was going to an exercise class straight after work today, and like all curries it was nicer the next day. We had a portion leftover, so the cost was a tiny 47p per head, and we served with rice (around 9p per portion) and a couple of leftover homemade wraps. If you’re hungrier, you can split between two and it’s still only about 80p per head including the rice.