5:2 Veggie & Vegan: Dal with fried spicy onions

V/Ve/GF Is it a soup? Is it a curry? You can enjoy it as both! In India, dal means both the many different pulses you cook with and also countless lentil-based soups and curries. The dish has two parts: the cooked lentils themselves, which are incredibly comforting on their own, and the spicy fried onion dressing or ‘tarka’.

Makes 4 servings (or 8 side dish portions)

Preparation time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 25–30 minutes

Dal, 243 per portion (or 118 as a side dish) plus 37 calories for the spiced onions

250g red split lentils, 883

1 small onion, chopped, 38

1 small red chilli, chopped, 4

2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated, 4

100g tomatoes, roughly chopped, 18

1 teaspoon turmeric, 5

75g spinach, 19

Freshly ground salt and black pepper

Tarka (fried spicy onions): serves 4, 37 calories per person

1 teaspoon whole cumin and mustard seeds, 8

15g butter, 108, or 3 teaspoons coconut oil, 123

1/2 small onion, thinly sliced, 19

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced, 8

1 red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced, 4

  1. Rinse the red lentils well and place in a saucepan with the onion, chilli, ginger, turmeric, chopped tomatoes and 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20–25 minutes until the texture is between a soup and a purée. Skim off any foam that appears on the top.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, wash the spinach, and remove any tough stalks. When the lentils are cooked, add the spinach and heat through. Season well and thin out with a little water if you want a thinner soup.
  3. Meanwhile, toast the cumin and mustard seeds in a dry, non-stick frying pan until the seeds begin to pop. Add the butter or oil and sliced onion and fry until the onion is crisping up, 3–4 minutes.
  4. Turn down the heat and add the garlic and chilli and fry until gently browned. To serve, add a little of the spiced onion to the top of each bowl of hot dal.

From my new book, 5:2 Veggie & Vegan - packed with over 80 great recipes, a menu planner, and 10 fantastic stories of people who combine veggie or vegan dishes with fasting and have had brilliant results.

Experiment with different lentils, following the packet instructions as most types take a little longer to cook than split red lentils. You can also vary your tarka – add different whole spices, garam masala, curry leaves, shallots or ginger. For a more indulgent dal – wonderful on a non-fasting day – use a little less water to cook and add 100ml coconut milk (233 calories) towards the end of the cooking time.