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?
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.