Lentil, tomato and coconut dhal by Elly Curshen (Elly Pear’s Let’s Eat!)

Elly Pear (or Elly Curshen) is definitely one of my favourite follows on Instagram. She posts about good quality skincare, great food and Cos clothes… three of my all-time favourite things. Elly also has a café in Bristol, The Pear Café and two cookbooks two her name. Her first, Fast Days and Feast Days brought tasty food to the popular 5:2 diet. Her latest tome, Let’s Eat! is about making food work for your life, i.e. lots of versatile batch cooking and freeze-aheads. This is exactly what I need in my life… a self-help recipe book for those both cash-poor and time-poor.

I had mentally bookmarked this recipe for lentil, tomato and coconut dhal after test pics were posted on Elly’s Instagram long before the publication of Let’s Eat! It made a natural first attempt from the book. I love dhal, but some recipes are too faffy, or too virtuous. A dhal should be simple and delicious.

True to expectation, this was a simple enough cook that didn’t require anything that one of those rubbish local supermarkets wouldn’t have in stocks. Here’s looking at you, useless  local Co-op. You don’t even need a big store cupboard of spices – most of the spice came from a generous heap of Garam Masala (store bought or blended at home). My store cupboard didn’t have the black mustard seeds that Elly specifies, but a substitute of half regular (yellow) mustard seeds and half black onion seeds seemed a reasonable swap.

One thing I did notice was that my lentils took a lot longer to cook than the recipe states. The 20-25 mins was closer to 40-45 mins. This still wasn’t too bad considering it is just passive time spent in the kitchen. Has anyone else experienced these variable cooking times with lentils?

Lentil, tomato and coconut dhal Elly Pear Let's Eat!
1 portion down, 5 to go. A whole week of lentil, tomato and coconut dhal if you’re so inclined.

Its dhal-icious.

Dhal isn’t a looker by any stretch of the imagination. Elly Pear’s Lentil, tomato and coconut dhal is a pleasant coral hued mush. The spicing is unchallenging, mild but with a heady musk – perfect comfort bowl food. If you care how dazzling your food looks, you could always add some chopped coriander or a splurge of yoghurt for a bit of visual pizazz. I’ll just stick with my chopped soft boiled egg and sprinkle of seeds, providing extra protein and just enough extra bite, while still being eatable with a spoon and very little jaw effort.

The nature of Let’s Eat! is to make your batch of a basic recipe – like this dhal – but also being able to vary it for different moods, tastes or times of day. I haven’t got this far yet, quite frankly I enjoy the dhal as is. If, however, you are more adventurous than me you could always try adapting it as a soup with roasted red peppers and toasted cashews; or with seared tofu, avocado, pickles and seeds.

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