FOR THE SWEET POTATOES
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and roughly chopped into 1.5cm cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1⁄2 teaspoon fennel seeds
FOR THE DHAL
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 red onion, peeled and roughly chopped
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
200g red lentils, washed or soaked (soaking them makes them even healthier) and drained
1 × 400ml tin of coconut milk
400ml vegetable stock
2 large handfuls of spinach
a bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped, stalks and all
juice of 1 lemon
FOR THE COCONUT CHUTNEY
50g unsweetened desiccated coconut, soaked in boiling water.
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
a little olive oil
a 20g piece of fresh ginger, grated
1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
Preheat your oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7. Pour boiling water over the coconut and leave it to soak. Put your sweet potatoes on a roasting tray and add a good pinch of salt and pepper, the cumin and fennel seeds and a drizzle of olive oil. Roast in the oven for 20–25 minutes, until soft and sweet in the middle and crispy brown on the outside.
In a large saucepan, sizzle the garlic, ginger and red onion in a little oil for about 10 minutes, until soft and sweet. Grind the cumin and coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar, then add to the pan with the other spices and cook for a couple of minutes to toast and release the oils. Add the lentils, coconut milk and stock to the pan and bring to a simmer, then turn the heat down and bubble away for 25–30 minutes.
While that is cooking make your chutney. Drain the coconut and put it into a bowl. Fry the mustard seeds and curry leaves in a little oil until they begin to crackle, then pour the mixture over the coconut. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the ginger (and chilli).
To finish your dhal, turn off the heat and blend it with a stick blender (optional but it improves the texture.) Then stir in the spinach and allow it to wilt a little, stirring in half the chopped coriander and the lemon juice too.
Serve the remaining coriander, crispy sweet potatoes and coconut chutney separately and let everyone help themselves.
It serves 4, although you might want to accompany it with rice or chapatis if you are very hungry.