I may have admitted this before, but I’m an absolute sucker for pineapple in savoury dishes!
This recipe is based on a dhansak, which from Indian takeaways in my neck of the woods, always comes with tinned pineapple in it. I’m pretty sure that’s not authentic but it’s really delicious and comforting!
A dhansak also usually includes rather a lot of garlic, as well as onions and a little chilli, but as usual I’m avoiding using them when cooking for myself and Alex. So as well as the fragrant spice mix, I’ve used a base of carrot and celery, plenty of ginger, and some asafoetida powder. Asafoetida has an oniony flavour, so it’s great to add depth to this sort of recipe. It can be bitter if you add too much though! Bay leaf and black salt also add layers of flavour, and the spiced lentil sauce works beautifully with the sweet pineapple, fresh cauliflower and slightly bitter cavolo nero.
serves 4 – 6
for the vegetables
500 g cauliflower, stem and leaves too, cut into bite sized pieces
100 g cavolo nero, sliced
1.1 litre water
for the spice mix
3 cm cassia bark
1 tsp fennel seed
1 1/2 tsp cumin seed
1 1/2 tsp coriander seed
7 cardamom pods, seeds only
1/4 tsp black pepper seeds
for the sauce
3 tbsp oil
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 tbsp chopped ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp asafoetida
1 bay leaf
200 g red lentils
16 cherry tomatoes, halved
3 rings of tinned pineapple, cut into pieces
1/2 tsp black salt (or normal salt)
2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
First get the vegetables cooking. Bring the water to the boil in a large saucepan and add the cauliflower and cavolo nero. Simmer for 6 – 8 minutes until tender. Drain the vegetables, but save the cooking water, you’ll need it to cook the lentils.
Preheat the oven to 180 degrees c.
While the vegetables are cooking, take a heavy ovenproof casserole pan and put it on a medium low heat. Add the cassia, fennel, cumin and coriander and toast for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Transfer to a pestle and mortar along with the cardamom seeds and black pepper. Pound until the cassia is powdered, or in small enough bits not to be gritty in the curry.
Heat the oil in the same pan you toasted the spices in, and add the celery and carrot. Cook, stirring every so often for around 10 minutes until starting to caramelise and soften. Add the spice mix and ginger and stir for 1 -2 minutes to allow the spices to lose the raw flavour. Add a little more oil if it looks dry.
Put the lentils, turmeric, asafoetida, bay leaf, cherry tomatoes and 600 ml of reserved water from the vegetable cooking into the pan, stir well and bring to a simmer on the hob. Cover and transfer to the oven for 30 minutes.
After this time, the lentils should be collapsed into the stock. Beat the lentils with a wooden spoon to break them up and make them smoother and creamy. Add the salt to taste, and a little more of the cooking water if the lentils are thick. Stir the pineapple, coriander and vegetables through the lentils, and heat through on the hob to serve.