Meatless Monday & the Ultimate Medicinal Food

My easy, nutritious, delicious, lentil dahl!

This recipe is one of my all time favourites for so many reasons! In fact, my love of this dish was partly the reason why I decided that eating 100% paleo is not right for me.

To me, this dahl recipe opitimises the notion of 'food is medicine'. Every single ingredient has its own healthy-giving benefit, but what I love even more, is that it's the ultimate example of how certain ingredients combined together can bring out the best in one another.

For example, many of us are now aware of the many medicinal benefits of turmeric. But did you know that you actually need to consume it was a source of fat in order for it to be absorbed properly into the cells?  This is why when turmeric is used in traditional Indian cooking, it is always firstly fried in ghee, or added to milk. In this recipe I start with a generous amount of coconut oil to cook my spices in.

Piper nigrum (black pepper) has now also been shown to improve the bioavailability of turmeric.  This is why you may have seen black pepper added to herbal supplements containing turmeric (and indeed other formulations containing herbal medicines).

I love how the traditional preparations of foods, spices and herbs are now being scientifically validated and thus helping to improve our understanding of how foods actually work, but long before we went down that path, food was already medicine, and it was largely based on intuition and thousands if years of tradition.

Before I get to the recipe itself, here's a quick summary of just some of the health benefits of this awesome ingredient line up!

Lentils: source of vegetarian protein and fibre. The fibre contained in legumes is fermented by the bacteria in the gut into short chain fatty acids which are protective against bowel cancer.

Garlic: antimicrobial and good for cholesterol and the cardiovascular system.

Sweet potato: carbohydrates for energy; source of beta-carotene (hence the orange colour), an antioxidant beneficial for out eyes and skin; other vitamins such as A, B's and C; both soluble and insoluble fibres; potassium.

Peas: Up there with one of my all times favourites, peas just make everything taste good! As another starchy vegetable (or legume technically) these are great for energy but also have protein and fibre. Peas also have a range of different vitamins but one particularly worth mentioning in peas, is Vitamin K.

Coconut oil:  Yes it's a saturated fat, but it's still good for you! Coconut oil contains medium chain triglycerides (MCT's) which can support weight loss and healthy cholesterol ratios. It also has some antimicrobial benefits - in particular helping to foster healthy balance of good and bad gut flora.

Coriander: not just a boring garnish to be left on the side of the plate, this herb packs a punch when it comes to liver health and detoxification. The ground seed on the other hand will be better for your cholesterol and help with inflammation.

Ginger:  Oh how I love ginger (but you'll probably guess that considering how much I use in this recipe). Ginger is anti-inflammatory and oh so good for your digestion. Plus, there's no taste that compares to it!

Mustard seeds: part of the Brassica family (broccoli family), mustard seeds support detoxification, and especially hormone metabolism, but they're also antioxidant and cancer-protective.

And now for the recipe.

I do however need to say that I love big, bold flavours and this recipe definitely reflects that! Therefore, if you're new to making dahl, or the wonderful world of herbs and spices, then you may want to tone down the amount of spices, garlic and ginger used.

Ingredients

  • 5 cloves of garlic (I believe you can never have too much garlic)
  • 1 Tbsp ground turmeric
  • 2 Tbsp fresh chopped ginger
  • 1 Tbsp chili (fresh or dry but you can leave this out if you're not a fan)
  • 1/2 Tbsp mustard seeds
  • 1/2 Tbsp ground coriander seeds
  • Generous grinding of pepper
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1/2 cup French/puy lentils (I add these because they keep their shape and I love the texture)
  • 1 cup chopped sweet potato
  • 1 cup peas
  • 500 ml vegetable stock

Method

1. Heat coconut oil in a large pot, add mustard seeds and all the spices. Bring the heat down a little as you don't want to burn the spices but you do want to release all the beautiful aroma. Once the mustard seeds have started popping, add the garlic and ginger and stir until softened.

2. Add the red and French lentils. Stir well coating them in the oily, spicy mix.

3. Pour in the stock, bring down the heat and lightly simmer for around 15 minutes (or until the lentils begin to soften.

4. At this point, add the sweet potato and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

You will need to stir frequently so it doesn't stick or burn at the bottom as the red lentils start to disintegrate. 

5. Add the peas. You may also need to add a little more liquid here if it's too thick.

6.  Essentially it's ready when all the vegies are cooked, the red lentils have broken down, whilst the French lentils are cooked but still firm.

Notes

Serve with natural yogurt and big bunch of coriander (poppadoms and naan bread too if you wish).

As an added option, you call also add in a couple of cups of spinach at the end too.

Remember this freezes wellbecause you'll likely get about 4-6 meals out of it.

Enjoy this knowing you are doing A LOT of good for your body!