Comfort Dhal

Nobody really wants to eat salad on a cold and dreary evening. We want something warm and filling, preferably to eat from a bowl in front of a roaring fire. It could be a soup (let’s call it lentil soup) or it could be something a little bit more substantial, a spicy dhal.

Thomasina Miers' curried dal with fried egg and spiced chard butter.

Curried dal with fried egg and spiced greens 

A comforting and earthy bowlful, with an injection of health from the chard and some welcome richness from the butter and egg. Serves four to six.

2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
½ cinnamon stick 
500g red lentils, washed
1 heaped tsp turmeric
1 lemon, cut in half
100g butter
3 onions, peeled and finely sliced
600g rainbow or swiss chard/spinach/kale washed, leaves and stalks separated
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
1 tsp nigella seeds
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
4 free-range eggs
Toasted coconut flakes, to garnish (optional)

In a dry pan, toast one teaspoon of the cumin with the coriander seeds and cinnamon until fragrant, then blitz to a fine powder in a spice grinder or food processor.

Put the lentils in a saucepan with double their weight in water, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, until soft. Add the ground spice mix and turmeric, and carry on cooking until the lentils have absorbed almost all the water but are still on the soupy side. Squeeze in the juice of half the lemon, and keep warm.

While the lentils are cooking, melt 85g butter in a deep frying pan. Add the onions, season generously with salt and fry for 15≈minutes, until soft but not coloured. Finely slice the greens, then add to the pan with the garlic and remaining teaspoon of whole cumin seeds, and fry for another seven to eight minutes, until they’re softened but still have some bite. Stir through the nigella seeds and keep warm.

Heat the oil in large pan or wok, add the chard leaves and, once they have wilted, snip them into ribbons with scissors. Season, and squeeze over the remaining lemon. In a frying pan, cook the eggs in the remaining butter until bubbling and crisp (or poach them, if you prefer).

Spoon the lentils into individual bowls and top with the onion mix, chard leaves and a fried egg each. Drizzle the butter from the onion pan all over the top of the eggs, garnish with coconut flakes, if using, and serve hot.

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