Recipes from Nicolas Ghirlando : Fish fingers to Friday nights.

Dhal Vadai: spiced Indian lentil balls

Lentil ballsI have talked about my love of lentils in an earlier post. Like the Swedish are never too far away from a herring, dhal is never too far from my mind. Lentils are comfort food with the benefit of being incredibly good for you. The varieties lend themselves to a wide range of different dishes: Le Puy for a sausage casserole, beluga for a rabbit stew.

When my wife asked me to make an Indian version of falafel (as a lower carb snack), I remembered eating something similar at the wonderful Ganapati canteen in Peckham.

So here is my version of a very popular Indian street snack, perfect for an aperitif or even a small starter. For this dish, I have used split red lentils, but you could replace 50g with chana dhal, which is dried split chickpea.

Feel free to adjust the amount of chilli to your taste. I like mine hot.

Prep time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 30 mins

200g split red lentils
3cm cinnamon stick
1 tbsp toasted coriander seed
1 tbsp toasted cumin seed
3 tbsp garam masala
3 green birds-eye chillies
1 tbsp peppercorns (fresh if possible)
1 tbsp turmeric powder
10-12 curry leaves (fresh if possible, use 6-8 if dried)
Salt to season

Rinse 100g of the lentils until the water runs clear. Add them to a pan with 350ml cold water, a pinch of salt, the turmeric, curry leaves, cinnamon and peppercorns.

Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for about 20 minutes, or until soft.

Spread out on a tray to dry a little and remove the cinnamon stick and as many of the curry leaves as you can.

Meanwhile, grind the remaining lentils to a powder in a spice grinder and mix with the cooked lentils until you get a fairly firm and shapeable mix.

Heat vegetable or rapeseed oil to 180c in a deep pan to about 1/3 of the way up. You can tell when it’s hot enough by dropping a little of the mix into the oil and it goes golden brown in about 30 seconds.

Using a coffee scoop, shape the mix into balls and cook three or four at a time until golden brown. Remove and place on kitchen towel to dry as you make the rest.

Serve with yoghurt mixed with two tablespoons of dried coriander leaves, a few fresh chopped mint leaves, wholegrain mustard and a pinch of chilli powder.

4 Responses to “Dhal Vadai: spiced Indian lentil balls”

  1. livinggarden

    You’ve got me with this recipe – I adore falafel and dahl and chilli and this recipe sounds like a great combination of all three; and my vegetarian daughter will enjoy it too. Can’t wait to give it a go! Thanks for sharing!


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