Never a dhal moment

Serves: 4

Prep time: 45 minutes plus a few hours to marinade the chicken.

Cooking time: 45 minutes

This recipe carries on with the theme of reducing the amount of meat we eat. This fed four adults and one messy baby with a portion of chicken and of dhal left in case anyone wanted extra. I didn’t set out to make any particular regional style of curry I just put together the flavours I wanted. Each component works well on it’s own but it’s the various combinations that really set this off. Scoop up some dhal on a flatbread or try a bit of chicken with dhal and raita. The variety lets each mouthful bring something new. Get stuck in!

This recipe steals some elements from my chickpea and coconut dhal recipe. Particularly the curry butter and the flat breads where I omitted the spinach and added 1tsp of nigella seeds and 1 tsp of garlic powder. The chicken benefits from a few hours in the marinade so read ahead before you start.

You will need:

For the curry sauce:

250g onion sliced (roughly 2 medium onions)

2 tbsp oil

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp fennel seeds

8 cloves garlic

5cm / 2″ piece of ginger peeled

1/ tsp salt

1 dried kashmiri chilli (could be subsitued for 1/4 tsp chipotle paste or a similar amount of cayenne pepper)

2 tbsp tomato paste

500g pasata

2 tbsp dried fenugreek (methi) leaf or a handful of fresh curry leaf

For the chicken tikka :

2 free range chicken breasts or 4 boned and skinned chicken thighs, about 300g meat total

100g greek yoghurt

2 tsp garam masala

1 tsp onion powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp hot smoked paprika

1/2 tsp nigella seeds

1/2 tsp salt

1 medium red onion

1 green capsicum pepper

For the dhal:

1 tsp black peppercorns

1 tsp nigella seed

2 cardamon pods

2 tbsp oil

225g onion thinly sliced

2.5cm/ 1″ piece ginger peeled and finely chopped

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

160g lentils, I used 125g yellow split lentils and 35g dark green lentils for a mix of colour

400ml (1 can) coconut milk

150g water

A handful of fresh coriander chopped

50g curry butter optional but worth it(see link in the blurb above)

1/2 lemon juiced

Making it:

For the curry sauce:

Set a medium sized saucepan over a moderate heat and add the cumin and fennel seeds and toast until fragrant. When the spices are toasted add the oil then the onions to the pan. Cook the onions until they start to colour, then stir in the salt. Puree or finely chop the garlic and ginger and add to the onions.

Fry for 2 more minutes before adding the tomato puree and pasata. Reduce the temperature to a low heat and cook the sauce for 30-40 minutes until reduced to a thick sauce. Once cooked add the methi leaf and stir.

For the chicken tikka:

Mix the spices and salt into the yoghurt and dice the chicken into large chunks. Mix the chicken into the yoghurt and allow to marinade for a few hours. Roughly chop the green pepper and quarter the red onion. When you’re about 20 minutes from serving skewer the chicken, pepper and onion pieces alternating each ingredient and then grill under a hot grill or on a medium hot BBQ. Turn halfway through cooking (approximately 5-6 minutes in) and when cooked slide the meat and veggies off the skewer and into the curry sauce.

For the dhal:

Set a medium saucepan over a moderate heat and add the black pepper, nigella seeds and cardamom pods. When the spices become fragrant tip them into a mortar and pestle and grind to a powder.

Add the oil to the pan followed by the onions and salt. Stir occasionally and cook until translucent then add the garlic and ginger. Fry for 2 minutes and then stir in the ground spices and the turmeric. Fry for one more minute then stir in the lentils.

Next stir in the coconut milk and water and reduce the heat. Cook the lentils for 30-45 minutes until tender. Stir in the curry butter and then finish the dhal with the chopped coriander and lemon juice. If you want the dhal thicker simply puree a small amount of it and stir it through the rest.

Serve both the dhal and chicken curry with rice, raita (I’ll post the recipe soon seeing as I use it all the time) and flatbreads or naans.


I was originally going to make a spinach and potato (saag aloo) dish to go with this but struggled to get hold of any spinach. I’ll feature that another day.

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