My husband has been eating a mostly vegan diet (gasp!) for several months now, and although I’m not vegan and never will be, I’ve been eating vegan dinners with him almost every night. We love to cook and eat together, and honestly, I don’t miss the meat! What I DO miss are some of the great flavors you just don’t get (or are more difficult to get) from vegan food, like — my favorite — cheese. So, I’ll sprinkle parmigiana on my pasta and goat cheese in my salad to get those tastes. What I’ve learned over the past few months is that there are some excellent vegan dishes out there. It’s definitely more difficult for me as a cook, and I’ve been cooking much less as a result because it’s harder to find recipes, it takes more time to plan and it’s obviously limiting. But I’m giving it a go!
This recipe is a fantastic vegan dish — a dal made of lentils and chickpeas, flavored with coconut milk and curry, spicy ginger and garlic. It’s bursting with flavor with some good spice as well from the cayenne pepper. Last night we curled up with bowls of this and watched the Red Sox win the World Series (yeah!).
My favorite are the toppings. Freshness from cilantro, an awesome mustard seed turmeric oil, a chutney made from sweet raisins, onion and lime juice, toasted coconut and spicy sliced chiles (we used jalapeños we had on hand). There’s a lot going on, and it’s delicious! I especially loved the mustard seed oil. I’m not quite sure how to describe the taste — it’s a little smoky and toasty, a little spicy and pungent. It adds an awesome layer of depth.
- Instead of using dried chickpeas, I used canned. I realized too late that I didn’t need to add all the water called for in that case, so I added additional chickpeas and lentils in to thicken it up. If you use canned chickpeas, add just a cup of water, and combine with the next step (adding coconut milk and lentils). If it gets too thick as you go, thin it out with water.
- The recipe calls for adding two whole heads of garlic with the top third cut off. The recipe calls for plucking them out — feel free to press out the cloves into the dal — that’s what I did! They’re nice and sweet.
- Any type of lentil will work, though this calls for red.
- Serve over rice with pita or naan on the side to sop up the goodness.
Mustard Seed and Turmeric Oil
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 Tbsp. mustard seeds
- ½ tsp. ground turmeric
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- Kosher salt
- 1 small shallot, finely chopped
- 3 Tbsp. chopped golden raisins
- 2 Tbsp. finely chopped cilantro stems
- 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
Stew and Assembly
- 3 Tbsp. virgin coconut oil
- 2 medium onions, peeled, coarsely chopped
- 2 heads of garlic, top third removed
- 1 3″ piece ginger, peeled, thinly sliced
- 1 Tbsp. curry powder
- ½ tsp. cayenne pepper
- 1½ cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight, drained
- 2 13.5-oz. cans unsweetened coconut milk
- 1½ cups split red lentils
- Store-bought unsweetened toasted coconut flakes, thinly sliced Fresno or serrano chiles, and/or cilantro leaves (for serving; optional)
Mustard Seed and Turmeric Oil
Cook oil and mustard seeds in a small saucepan over medium-low, swirling often, until mustard seeds start to pop. Remove from heat and stir in turmeric and cayenne. Season with salt; let cool.
Do Ahead: Oil can be made 1 day ahead. Store tightly covered at room temperature.
Mix shallot, raisins, cilantro stems, lime juice, and oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper.
Do Ahead: Chutney can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.
Stew and Assembly
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot over medium. Cook onions and garlic, cut side down, and ginger, stirring onions and ginger occasionally, until onions are translucent and garlic is golden brown, 5–7 minutes. Add curry powder and cayenne and cook, stirring constantly, until very fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chickpeas and 5 cups water, stirring to release any bits stuck on bottom of pot; season with several pinches of salt. Bring to a simmer; cover with a lid, leaving slightly askew so steam can escape. Cook, adjusting heat to maintain a very gentle simmer and skimming foam from surface as needed, until chickpeas have swelled about 50 percent in size but are still crunchy, 25–30 minutes.
Add coconut milk and lentils to pot; season with more salt. Return to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until chickpeas are tender and lentils have broken down to form a thick broth, 30–35 minutes. Pluck out and discard garlic heads (don’t worry about any cloves that may have escaped into stew). Taste and season with more salt if needed. Ladle dal into bowls and serve with toasted Mustard Seed and Turmeric Oil, Cilantro-Raisin Chutney, coconut, chiles, and/or cilantro as desired.
Do Ahead: Dal can be made 3 days ahead. Let cool; cover and chill.