Dreamy dahl with raw coconut chutney

Every time I visit my parents in law I get totally spoiled with amazing home cooked food from morning to evening. I am incredibly lucky to have married a man who's family are not only very supportive of my choice of eating plant-based, but are true inspirations in the kitchen. Already in the early 70's they adapted a very health conscious approach to diet and lifestyle, they ditched all processed junk food and meat and adapted a macrobiotic diet and became yogis. Today, nearly 45 years later, they still live and thrive on whole foods, almost a plant-based diet but with some fish and seafood as well. 

Marilyn, my mother in law, is the head chef in the kitchen, and she spends an admirable time in the kitchen each day but never seems to be stressed or tired of it, she just cooks and bakes all day long with a jolly smile on her face. Today she cooked us an amazing dhal with crispy sweet potato and raw coconut chutney from the Anna Jones cookbook "A Modern Way To Eat". Like myself, Marilyn rarely follows a recipe from top to bottom, and since I thought the lunch today was absolutely delicious, I want to share exactly the version she did. I also think it's worth mentioning that if you have very limited time, skip the roasted sweet potato, as although they add both nice texture, flavor and substance, they are not a must. And as well as Anna Jones herself say, if you are very short on time, the coconut chutney can be swapped for store bought mango chutney. 


Ingredients: (Serves 4)


  • a thumb-size piece of fresh ginger, peeled and roughly chopped

  • 1 green or red chilli, finely chopped

  • 2 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

  • 1 × 400ml tin of coconut milk

  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

  • 1 x 400ml tin of chopped tomatoes

  • 4 tsp vegetable bouillon powder and around 800-1000 ml water (instead of vegetable stock)

  • 2 large handfuls of spinach

  • a bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped, stalks and all

  • juice of 1 lemon


  • 2 sweet potatoes, skins on, washed and roughly chopped into 1.5cm cubes

  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds

  • 1⁄2 teaspoon fennel seeds

  • olive oil


  • 50g unsweetened desiccated/grated coconut

  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

  • 10 curry leaves

  • a little vegetable or coconut oil

  • a 20g piece of fresh grated ginger or 1tsp of ginger powder

  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped


  1. Preheat your oven to 220°C/fan 200°C/gas 7.

  2. Pour 150ml of boiling water over the coconut and leave to soak.

  3. 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.

  4. In a large saucepan, sizzle the garlic, ginger, chilli 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Season with salt and pepper, then stir in the ginger and chilli and give it a good mix.

  8. To finish your dhal, take it off the heat, then stir in the spinach and allow it to wilt a little, stirring in half the chopped coriander and the lemon juice too.

  9. Pile into bowls and top with the crispy sweet potatoes, spoonfuls of the coconut chutney and the remaining coriander.

TIPS: I serve this with charred chapattis or roti, and if you are really hungry you can have some fluffed brown basmati rice too.

RecipesKarin Gibson