white lentils with tomatoes and cream

i’m completely rubbish whenever asks me “what’s your favourite…” – i’m fickle and changeable so favourites come and go. however, lentils always catch my interest and dhal (or dal. or daal. or dahl.) is very much-loved. it was the answer to delicious magazine’s question about my favourite dish and is something i’ve not made nearly often enough in recent months.

dal makhani is a dish i love to find on a restaurant menu – it’s made with black urad lentils and is rich, earthy and indulgent. however, when i stocked up on urad dhal i chose the dehusked version - a white urid dal, according to the label. finding recipes for this has been tricky so i decided to adapt one that was meant for the unhusked bean (they aren’t really lentils) and is reminiscent of dal makhani.

the recipe i used is from the cinnamon club cookbook and it is the first time i’ve used this book. the resulting dish, albeit an adaptation, is rich, subtle and sophisticated. utterly delicious and a reason to track down some black urad dhal and make my own makhani.

white lentils with tomatoes and cream* (serves 4-6 as a side dish)

250g white urad dhal

2-3 garlic cloves, finely grated (the original recipe also calls for the same amount of grated ginger but i didn’t have any. if you do, add it!)

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon red chilli powder

2 tablespoons tomato puree

25g chopped smoked tomatoes (roasted or sundried would also do) - optional

50g butter, diced

1 teaspoon garam masala

pinch of sugar

2 tablespoons cream

fenugreek leaves to garnish - optional

soak the dhal for an hour and the cook until tender. drain, rinse and place back in the saucepan with 300ml water (you may need to add more, it depends what consistency you want the finished dish to have). bring to a simmer and add the garlic (and ginger if you are using it), salt and chilli powder. simmer for 10 minutes.

add the tomato puree, stir and then add the butter gradually, stirring as you go. simmer gently for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are thick – keep the heat gentle so the butter emulsion does not separate from the lentils). add the garam masala, sugar and cream. check the seasoning and adjust if necessary. garnish with the fenugreek, if you are using it.

* adapted from a cinnamon club recipe