Sri Lankan dal with coconut and lime kale

Sri Lankan dal with coconut and lime kale

Preparation time
less than 30 mins

Cooking time
30 mins to 1 hour

Serves 4


By Meera Sodha
From Saturday Kitchen


For the lentils

  • 300g/10½oz red lentils
  • 2 tbsp coconut oil
  • 8 fresh curry leaves
  • 1 lemongrass stalk, halved and bashed
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 cinnamon stick, halved
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 3 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2cm/¾in piece fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 green finger chillies, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 1½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 400ml tin coconut milk
  • ½ lime, juice only

For the rice

  • 350g/12oz basmati rice
  • 2 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt

For the pickled red onions

  • 1 red onion, cut into very thin semi-circles
  • 4 tbsp lime juice (from 2–3 limes)
  • ¾ tsp fine sea salt

For the kale

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 150g/5½oz kale, sliced with thicker stems discarded
  • 3 tbsp desiccated coconut
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt

To serve

  • 400g/14oz plain yoghurt


  1. To make the lentils, place the lentils in a large bowl and wash them in cold water until the water runs clear. Cover the lentils with 750ml/1¼ pint water and set aside.

  2. Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and, when hot, add the curry leaves and lemongrass. When the curry leaves start to crackle, add the cloves and cinnamon. Stir-fry for 1 minute then add the onion. Cook for 10–12 minutes, until the onions are soft enough to cut with a wooden spoon. Add the garlic, ginger and chillies. Stir-fry for another couple of minutes, then add the turmeric and salt. Stir again and add the lentils and water to the pan. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the coconut milk and lime juice to the pan and simmer until the lentils are creamy. Cover to keep warm.

  3. To make the rice, wash and soak the rice to get rid of excess starch by placing the rice in a bowl. Cover with water and agitate with your hands until the water turns cloudy. Drain and repeat until the water is clear, then soak the rice for 10 minutes in hand-hot water, or for 20 minutes in cold water, and drain again.

  4. Heat the oil in a saucepan or wide lidded frying pan. Add the salt and the drained rice and stir to mix. Add 600ml/20fl oz freshly boiled water. Bring to the boil, then place the lid on and turn the heat down to very low. Cook for 10 minutes, then take off the heat and leave to steam with the lid on for a further 10 minutes.

  5. To make the pickled onions, put the onion in a bowl with the lime juice and salt. Scrunch with your hands until slightly wilted, then set aside for a minimum of 15 minutes.

  6. To make the kale, heat the coconut oil in a wide lidded frying pan. When hot, add the mustard seeds. When they pop, add the kale, desiccated coconut, salt, lime juice and 5 tablespoons water. Toss and pop the lid on. Leave to steam for 5 minutes or until the kale is soft and tender.

  7. To serve, place a bed of rice in four shallow bowls and ladle over the dal. Divide the kale between the bowls and spoon over the yoghurt and pickled onion.

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