Aka “chana dahl” lentils in a rich makhani-style sauce.
Food like all things in life is ever changing, always evolving and the journey continuous. Where food culture is now is not where it will be in 100 years time as it is now neither like it was 100 years ago.
For me the joy of cooking is not only in the things that are familiar with nostalgic memories but also in the creation of new ones, whether that is through the fusion of two dishes or whether it is something completely new. The challenge of using ingredients traditionally used in one cooking method but finding new uses and styles of cooking with them is what drives food evolution.
Afterall even the most traditional dishes that you could imagine at one time were new, they not considered the normal or even the right way of doing things. They were fresh new and innovative ideas that through time became a classic dishes that today we look back on with fond memories.
Two of my favorite Indian based dishes are indeed tofu makhani, which is itself a vegan version of the paneer makhani and lentil dahl and as it happens my husband absolutely adores makhani and I love lentil dahl so it seems quite a natural step to try and combine these two into one balanced harmonious dish that lovers of both can enjoy.
All food takes ideas and inspiration from somewhere and this here is where this dish came from and the final result is one I and we were both very happy with its warm hearty flavours.
It might not be traditional, I’m aware, but we got plenty of blogs that stick to tradition cooking, I leave them to do their job while I continue mine, that is mainly experimenting.
That’s because I like food that changes and is able to evolve.
Indeed that kind of food combination that, if you stick to tradition, you will never be able to taste and experience.
Here’s how to make my take on this – let’s call it – Indian-style “fusion” dish.
1 can Chopped Tomatoes
300 gr Chana Dahl
300 gr Jasmine Rice
150 ml Plant Based Milk (Coconut)
50 gr Fresh Spinach (1 1/2 Cup)
1 Large Onion (chopped)
2 Bay Leaves
2 Garlic Cloves (grated)
1 tbsp Olive Oil
1 tbsp Curry Powder
1 tsp Fresh Ginger (grated)
1/2 tsp Chili Flakes (or 1 fresh chili)
1 tsp Turmeric
Hot Water (around 1 liter)
Soak the lentils in hot water for at least 30 minutes (up to 2 hours). This will cut a bit their cooking time.
Blend chopped tomatoes until you reach a smooth sauce (you can also use passata or fresh tomatoes, but since at the moment fresh ones are not in season I prefer chopped tomatoes to passata because they deliver a tangier taste which will be balanced with spices and coconut milk later on).
In a pan heat the olive oil, add the chopped onion, season with salt and sauté until soft.
Pour in all the spices and herbs: curry powder, turmeric, chili flakes, ginger, garlic and bay leaves. Heat for a couple of minutes to allow them release their flavour.
Drain and rinse well the lentils, then add them to the pan with the onion and oil.
Add blended tomatoes, top with boiling water (around 600 ml), cover with the lid and simmer for 30-40 minutes. Note: lentils may absorbe all the liquid, so make sure you keep an eye during cooking and add more hot water if needed.
In the mean time you can start cooking the jasmine rice. To make it fluffy and fragrant simply add the rice with twice its weight of water in a pot, add 1 tsp of vegetable oil and a pinch of salt or turmeric (optional). Cover with its lid and simmer on medium-low heat for 10-12 minutes. Note: in this case too it might require more water. Be warned that when the rice is thoroughly cooked it should have absorbed all the water.
Lentils should be cooked now, give them a little stir and taste, adjust with salt and pepper, then add the plant based milk.
Simmer for another couple of minutes and serve with fragrant fluffy rice (or naans if you prefer, here’s how I make mine).
Watch the video