Mooli, or Daikon, is a mild-flavoured white radish native to East Asia. It is used throughout the region in a variety of different ways, from pickles, salads and garnishes to soups and other hot meals. You can pick it up now in lots of places here in the UK. Your local greengrocer will often stock it, as do most supermarkets. It is recognisable by its long, white root that looks like a giant white carrot. Though it doesn’t really appear in British cuisine, it is very popular in many branches of Asian cooking.
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I’ve chosen to demonstrate its subtle flavour here in a mildly-spiced dal, accompanied by chana dal lentils and fresh leaf spinach. The dish takes about an hour to make, but the majority of the time is in cooking the lentils, which can take about 45 minutes to become tender. It is important to remember to skim the lentils when they come to the boil and for the first few minutes after. The foam is all the impurities rising to the surface, so don’t be tempted to stir it back in as the resulting flavour can be bitter. Just take a slotted spoon and a small dish, gently skim the foam off the top as it forms and discard into the dish. You will only need to do this at the beginning, the rest of the cooking time can be spent on the other elements of the meal.
The great news is that you can make this recipe a couple of days in advance, in fact it tastes even better a day or two later, just cover it and put in in the fridge and it will happily keep for 4 days. You can also freeze it to make use of it as and when you please. Feel free to double up the recipe to cook on a weekend and freeze it in portion sizes.
Vegan Mooli and Spinach Dal
- 300 g chana dal lentils washed and drained
- 1.5 litres water
- 1 ½ tbsp coconut oil
- ½ mooli/daikon peeled and diced
- 1 red onion peeled and sliced
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 inch piece ginger peeled and chopped
- 3 medium tomatoes cut into wedges
- 3 tbsp madras curry powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- 2 vegetable stock cubes make sure they’re vegan and gluten free
- 4 tbsp tomato puree
- A large handfuls of fresh leaf spinach washed
- 150 ml vegan cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A small handful of flaked almonds to serve
- a little chopped coriander to serve
- First cook the lentils but putting them in the water and bringing them to the boil. Boil for 10 minutes, skimming off any foam that forms on top (see notes above). Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover the pan with a lid. Cook for 35-40 minutes, or until the lentils are tender.
- About 20 minutes before the lentils are cooked, you can start making the rest of the dish.
- Heat the coconut oil in a large saucepan pan or wok. Fry the mooli and the red onion together for 10-15 minutes, until the mooli is soft and cooked through. Add the garlic, the ginger and the tomatoes and cook for another 6 minutes or so, until the tomatoes have softened.
- Now add the madras curry powder, the garam masala, the turmeric, cumin, stock cubes and tomato puree and stir in. Fry for a couple of minutes to cook the spices through.
- Once they are done, pour in the lentils and the cooking water, bring back to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Now add the spinach and simmer for 8-10 minutes more, until you have a nice, thick dal. Stir in the cream and give it a couple more minutes, then season to taste.
- Toast the flaked almonds in a try pan for a couple of minutes, to brown slightly, then serve on top of the dal with a little of the coriander.
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