Dal, also known as Daal, Dahl and Dhal depending on who you ask, is a lovely, hearty and comforting stew like dish from India made with pulses. Dal itself is a name for a pulse but the dish is often made with split peas or chickpeas. Unless I go through a rigorous process of soaking, maybe sprouting and then intensive cooking, those little buggers don’t agree with me (yep, read between the lines). BUT I love the idea of dal and the flavours it carries, so I’ve decided to make my own paleo version without the legumes. This is ‘dal’ only by association but equally warming and delicious.
Instead of using legumes, I thought I could use pumpkin or squash (sweet potato or carrot could also be used) for sweetness, colour and mushy texture. And to add some crunch I used some finely chopped cauliflower, like you would for cauliflower rice, and some sesame seeds. A huge whack of spices and some coconut milk and I actually created something I am super proud of. My ‘dal’ is full of nutrients and fibre and can be eaten as is on a cold night or as a side with some meat or fish. It goes really well with some boiled or fried eggs for breakfast. It can be frozen in batches for a quick vegetable side dish as well.
Cook’s notes: Garam Masala is an Indian spice mix made with pepper, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, cardamom, bay leaf and cumin (usually, there are variations). You can find it in most supermarket or Asian stores. I love having it around as it’s great for curries and stews. If you can’t find any garam masala, simply mix tother mild curry powder with a little cinnamon, nutmeg and cumin. Ginger and garlic powders can be used instead of fresh. The thickened part of the coconut milk in a can is the same as using coconut cream. Sweet potato and carrot can be used in place of pumpkin, I used butternut pumpkin/squash as it’s usually quite sweet.
AIP modifications – omit the sesame seeds and the chilli flakes and check the spice mix ingredients, onion can bother some so use leek instead.
- 1 large brown onion, finely diced (use food processor)
- 20 grams ghee or butter (about 2 tablespoons)
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger
- 3 large cloves garlic, finely diced or grated
- 500 grams peeled butternut pumpkin/squash, diced into small cubes
- 2 teaspoons garam masala or mild curry powder
- 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon cumin powder
- ½ teaspoon chilli flakes
- 1 teaspoon fish sauce (optional)
- 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (I used chicken stock)
- about 200 grams coconut cream
- juice of ½ lime
- ½ teaspoon salt
- 2-3 tablespoons sesame seeds
- ½ medium head cauliflower, broken into florets
- handful of fresh coriander chopped
- extra sesame seeds and coconut cream for garnish
- Sauté onion in ghee and coconut oil over medium heat for 5-6 minutes, until softened and slightly golden.
- Add the ginger, squash and garlic and stir through for a minute. Add the spices and stir through. Then add the fish sauce, stock, coconut cream, lime juice, salt and sesame seeds and stir through. Bring to boil, turn down to medium-low and cover with a lid. Cook for about 8-10 minutes.
- In the meantime, either chop or grind the cauliflower florets into small crumbs. I used a food processor and added separated florets in three batches, whizzed a few times for a couple of seconds each time, until finely chopped up but not completely ground up into dust. You can use a knife and chop the cauli super finely.
- After 8-10 minutes of cooking the pumpkin, stir in the cauliflower rice and cook together for 5 minutes, covered with a lid. Stir a couple of times.
- Using a potato masher, press down the cooked mixture a few times to soften the pumpkin pieces slightly. You want some of the pumpkin flesh to become the sauce itself.
- Serve with fresh coriander and a dollop of coconut cream or yoghurt. A few sesame seeds over the top for presentation.
Let me know what you think of this recipe in the comments and don’t forget to share with you friends and family. It’s delicious!