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Spinach dhal with spiced sweet potatoes

More and more, I am getting into vegetarian food from other cultures. I think Asian cultures do vegetable based dishes better than the West, probably because they have more vegetarians there. The things I cook in this fashion aren’t usually totally ‘authentic’ (I don’t think that’s overly important in home cooking), as in this recipe which, I guess, is Indian-ish (well, the dhal bit, dhal being the Indian word for lentils). But the idea for roasted spiced sweet potatoes to be eaten alongside came from the totally non-Indian although appropriately named Sophie Dahl. She did a series a while back and I remembered making this dish the weekend after watching the episode and just being blown away by how enjoyable it was. It really zings, and it’s so comforting. I have adapted it quite a lot here; the dhal is quite different from hers. Also she calls for a fragrant lemon and saffron rice to be served alongside, which is perfect, but on a typically pandemoniac weekday evening (isn’t between 5-6 always the worst time?!) I just couldn’t muster making 3 different components to dinner; 2 was quite enough. That said, it is very easy, particularly the dhal, just lentils in a pan, pour on water and chosen spoonfuls of spices. The kids loved this, and I mean seriously loved it. They don’t go for all Asian/Indian things that I make, but this they adore. I don’t struggle getting the Toddler to eat pulses; he does seems to like all things protein. I suppose this dish is a bit like Indian chips and beans. I whizz up the lot for baby, as the spinach is too leafy, it makes a perfect and very tasty puree. I’d quite happily eat it pureed in fact.

It is preferable, if this is being cooked for adults, that you chop the chili and cook it in with the spice fry for the sweet potatoes. As I was cooking for young children I chop the chili and serve on top, raw, for the adults. Also, just a note to say that I think these two dishes would be nice on their own, or as sides to meat curries.

To make enough for 4 adults: 
For the sweet potatoes:
4/6 sweet potatoes, sliced into chunky chips
1 onion, chopped finely
4 teaspoons of garam masala
Fresh ginger, 1 thumb sized piece, grated or finely chopped
3/4 cloves of garlic, grated or finely chopped
1 whole red chilli, chopped (either to serve on top or chopped for the fry)
Vegetable oil, 1 tablespoon

For the dhal:
200g spinach
500g red lentils
2 1/2 pints of cold water
2 teaspoons of turmeric
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of salt
Squeeze of lime
Large knob of butter

  • Preheat oven to 200C. Toss your chunky sweet potato chips in vegetable oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 20 minutes. Turn them a couple of times during roasting. 
  • Meanwhile, heat some vegetable oil and fry your chopped onion over a medium heat, along with the garam masala, garlic, ginger, and chili if feeding adults or older kids. 
  • Now make your dhal. Put your lentils and water in a pan. Add your spices and salt and bring to boil. Simmer for about 15-20 minutes. Pop the spinach into the dhal until it wilts, which will only take a minute. Squeeze some lime, taste and season if it needs it. Turn the pan off and put to one side while you finish your sweet potatoes. 
  • When your potatoes are pretty much roasted, which they will be after 20 minutes, add your fry mix to the roasting pan, toss and give them another 10 minutes. 
  • Serve your dhal in bowls, with the sweet potato chips on top. Scatter extra spice fry on top and extra chilli too if you want. 

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