Creamy dal with turmeric-toasted cauliflower

400g brown or black lentils (such as beluga) 
1 bay leaf
½ cinnamon stick
1 dried red chilli 
40g butter
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 thumb ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp garam masala
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tbsp tomato paste
200ml double cream

For the spice mix
½ tbsp cumin seeds
2 cloves
1 heaped tbsp coriander seeds
4 green cardamom pods
1 star anise
2-3 pinches dried chilli flakes
1 tsp fennel seeds

For the cauliflower
1 small head cauliflower, broken into florets, leaves reserved
1 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp rapeseed oil


  1. Rinse the lentils in cold water, then tip them into a large pan with the bay leaf, cinnamon and chilli. Cover with plenty of water and a heaped teaspoon of salt, bring to a simmer and cook for 40-45 minutes, until the lentils are completely soft but still keep their shape.

  2. Meanwhile, heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat. When hot, toast the spice mix ingredients for a few minutes, stirring constantly, until fragrant. Discard the cardamom husks, then transfer everything else to a spice or coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder.

  3. Heat the oven to 220C (200C fan)/425F/gas 7. Melt half the butter and the oil in a deep casserole dish, fry the onion for five minutes until it begins to soften, add the garlic and ginger, and cook for a further three to four minutes. Stir in the spice mix, garam masala and ground cinnamon and, a minute later, the tomato paste. Gently fry for three minutes, then drain the lentils and stir into the pan. Add enough water to create a thick, soup-like consistency, bring back up to heat and taste, adding more salt, if needed. Cover with a tight-fitting lid and bake for 30 minutes.

  4. Line a baking tray with foil. Toss the cauliflower florets and leaves with the turmeric, oil and two big pinches of salt, then turn out on to the tray. Roast with the dal for 20-25 minutes, until crisp and golden in parts.

  5. Once the cauliflower is cooked, remove everything from the oven. Stir the cream and remaining butter into the lentils and check for seasoning again (this needs to be generous).

  6. Spoon the dal into bowls, top with the roasted cauliflower, sprinkle with the chilli and coriander, and serve with rice.


Vicky Skingley