Shelley’s recipes

Healthy family favourites from the Purchon household

A dish of healthy lentil curry


If the only Indian food you've ever eaten comes from Indian restaurants, this recipe may come as a revelation. It doesn't have that layer of grease which take-away meals so often have, instead it tastes wholesome, fresh and tangy. Turmeric is so healthy that it’s sometimes used as a medicine, and sweet potatoes are a great source of potassium and magnesium.

When Russell first started cooking curries from scratch, I was in awe. With such a long list of ingredients, some of which I’d never heard of, I figured it must be really hard. Then I had a go myself and realised it’s EASY. The secret is to measure your spices into a little bowl before you start. Cooking curries only gets stressful if you’re rummaging about in your shoe box of spices, swearing, while the garlic burns.

Toor dal is an oversized lentil, also known as the pigeon pea. It has a nutty taste and keeps its shape better than red lentils, but good luck buying them in Hexham. The same goes for the asafoetida. The Indian shops on Westgate Road sell them, so why not call in the next time you’re in Toon? It feels a bit like a foreign country round that part of Newcastle, which might put you in the mood for a genuine Indian meal. Alternatively, buy them from this online retailer. 

Gujarati Dal

Serves 4

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: up to 40 minutes.


  • 228g toor dal 
  • 1 medium sweet potato, chopped
  • 2 tbsp peanuts
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • ½ tsp cumin seeds
  • 3 plum tomatos, chopped
  • 1 tsp grated ginger
  • ½ tsp each of asafoetida, chilli powder and turmeric (we use less chilli, for the bairns)
  • 1 dessert spoon of sugar
  • Juice of ½ lemon


Wash and drain the lentils, then add them to a large saucepan with the sweet potato, peanuts, salt and 750ml of boiling water. While they are cooking, get out a frying pan to cook the other ingredients.

Melt the butter with the cumin seeds. When the seeds start to brown, add the tomatoes, ginger and spices, and stir well. Fry it all gently for 3 minutes. It will smell absolutely gorgeous and be a lovely golden colour.

Tip the contents of the frying pan into the lentils 10 to 15 minutes before they are fully cooked. (The lentil packet should give cooking times.)

Before serving, stir in the sugar and lemon juice.

Serve with warm chapattis and Indian chutney.