Sunday, February 28, 2016

Spicy red-lentil and butternut squash dahl with basmati rice and sheep’s milk yoghurt

It was freezing cold and raining on Thursday morning when suddenly, while I was in my car, driving, the rain turned into snow. Huge snowflakes, the biggest I have ever seen, started falling from the sky, landing on the windscreen ever so gently and quietly, making me feel like I was standing in the middle of a snow globe.

The whole day, all I could think of was coming home and having a cozy and comforting dinner. I was craving something hot and spicy because there’s nothing like spicy food to warm you up on a cold winter’s day.

I had a small butternut squash that I’d bought the previous day to make into a soup, but the plans had changed. I was going to make a dahl; a red-lentil and butternut squash dahl. Indian food for the soul.

There were tomatoes involved and fiery dried red chilli flakes. Peppery fresh ginger and bitter cumin. Onions and garlic, of course. Golden turmeric and fragrant fresh coriander. The result was a thick, creamy, juicy and sumptuous dahl that was deeply aromatic and spicy without blowing your socks off, with sweetness from the tender pumpkin and mellow earthiness from the lentils.

There was nutty, fluffy basmati rice accompanying the dahl and some tangy, creamy sheep’s milk yoghurt to soothe the palate. And it was wonderful. It was all we needed on that cold Thursday.

P.S. One of my recipes was published in the March issue of Cosmopolitan magazine (Greek edition). Yay! You can check it out if you are in Greece.

Spicy red-lentil and butternut squash dahl with basmati rice and sheep’s milk yoghurt
Adapted from Diana Henry

Dahl is an Indian thick stew made with legumes (primarily lentils).

For my taste, this dish is not too spicy and I wouldn’t suggest you change the amount of chilli flakes added. If however you can’t handle spicy food, then reduce to 1 tsp chilli flakes.

Dahls are traditionally topped with a tarka before serving, which is a mixture of spices that are fried quickly over high heat, but I didn’t add any to this dahl as I wanted to keep it light.

Yield: 6 servings


for the dahl
4 Tbsp sunflower oil
1 large onion (about 160 g), grated or processed
3 garlic cloves, peeled and mashed
500 g peeled and deseeded butternut squash, cut into 2.5cm chunks
150 g fresh chopped tomatoes (or canned chopped tomatoes)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
2 tsp dried red chilli flakes
3cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
225 g red lentils
1 liter water
1 vegetable stock cube

for the rice
2 cups basmati rice
2 Tbsp sunflower oil
2½ cup boiling water
1 tsp salt

to serve
500 g sheep’s milk yoghurt
A handful of fresh coriander leaves

Special equipment: large, heavy-bottomed pan with lid (I use a Dutch oven), sieve


for the dahl
In a large frying pan, add 2 Tbsp of the sunflower oil and place over a medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the butternut squash pieces and sauté until they have taken on a golden color all around. Remove pan from the heat.

Add 2 Tbsp of the sunflower oil in a heavy-bottomed pan (I use a Dutch oven) and place over medium heat. When it starts to simmer, add the onion and sauté for a few minutes until it takes on a golden brown color, stirring often so it doesn’t burn. Add the garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Then add the chopped tomatoes and tomato paste and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring frequently. Then add the ginger, chilli flakes, cumin and turmeric and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring continuously. Then add the lentils, the butternut squash, water, stock cube and salt.
Turn heat up to high and bring to the boil. Then turn heat down to low, put the lid on the pan and cook for 25 minutes, until the lentils are cooked and the butternut squash is tender. Then take the lid off the pan and cook for further 5 minutes. In the end, the dahl should be thick but juicy, not dry.
Give it a taste and add more salt if needed.

for the rice
I always make this rice following the 1:1¼ method of measuring. Which means that for every 1 cup of rice, I add 1¼ cup water. It works perfectly each time for me.

Add the rice to a sieve and place it under cool running water. Rinse the rice until the water runs clean. Leave to dry in the sieve for 5 minutes.

In a small saucepan, add the sunflower oil and heat over medium-high heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the rice and toast, stirring constantly with a spoon or spatula for 1 minute. Add the boiling water and salt, and stir well. Bring to the boil and turn heat down to low. Put on the lid and simmer for about 20 minutes. At this point, the rice should be cooked. If you see water still in the pan, boil for longer but keep an eye on it so it doesn’t dry up and catch at the bottom.

Remove from the heat and leave with the lid on for a further 5 minutes. Then, using a fork, fluff up the rice, put the lid on and let it stand for 5-7 minutes, as it will continue to steam.

Serve the dahl with the rice and yoghurt and top with the fresh coriander leaves.

The dahl is even tastier the next day and it keeps well in the fridge for 2-3 days.


  1. This looks so good! Yes, I agree, Indian food is ultimate comfort and warming food. I wish I could be in the snow globe...very hot here in North Queensland!

    1. Thank you! It's nice here with the snow. I'm still in awe of it because I rarely see it in Athens.

  2. fantastic! snow falling sounds so romantic.

  3. Beautiful and comforting - just the kind of food we love, Magda. I love your copper and brass pots, too.

  4. I absolutely love dahls, it's a bit too warm down here and they've gone at the back burner - thanks so much for reminding me! love x