Amchur and chilli dhal recipe

amchurdhal

A simple, hot-and-sour dish devised to have a play with a lovely new (to me) ingredient. Amchur or 'amchoor' is a powder made from dried unripe ('green') mangos, and has a sherbet-like acidity that breathes life into dhal, stews and curry pastes. It can be mixed with salt to create a zingy seasoning, which is delicious sprinkled over crispy fried things like fritters, battered fish pieces or squid. Thank you to flavour mavens World Of Zing for sending me the amchur powder, and for encouraging me to give it a bash.

250g split red lentils
2tbsp groundnut oil (or any flavourless oil)
1 white onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 inch piece ginger, grated or minced
1tsp dried chilli flakes
1 cinnamon stick
2tsp cumin
2tsp amchur powder
650ml water
1/2 tsp salt
75g baby spinach leaves, washed

  1. Heat a wide, heavy-based frying pan over a low heat. Add the lentils and toast for 3 minutes, moving them around almost constantly to prevent burning. Remove the lentils to a bowl and set to one side.
     
  2. Heat a medium-sized saucepan over a low heat and add the oil. Gently fry the onions, garlic, gingerchilli flakes and cinnamon stick for 10-12 minutes, or until translucent and soft. Do not let them caramelise - this will affect the flavour of the finished dish.
     
  3. Add the amchur and cumin and cook for a further minute, then add the lentils, salt and water, bring to a gentle simmer, add a lid leaving a small gap to allow steam to escape, and cook over a low heat for 35 minutes, stirring regularly. When the dhal is cooked, it should be quite thick with tender lentils and not at all watery.
     
  4. Add the spinach, stir, and cook until wilted. Taste for seasoning, add a little extra salt if you wish, and serve with rice, slivers of raw shallot or red onion and Indian pickles (shop bought is just fine).