Warming Coconut Dal with Chilli Prawn Cakes


Before anything else, let me just say “Je Suis Charlie”.

For supper tonight, I’m looking for speed, spice and comfort. Maybe it’s the depressing week, or the wild and windy weather – a need to escape to the heat and excitement of India.

A few years ago, when in India with a couple of friends, we spent a few days in Jaipur and as part of our trip we had a driver at our disposal with some pre-arranged trips. On our first evening our itinerary showed a trip to the local market and we were looking forward to the hustle and bustle and sifting through stalls with spices etc….

Before we left our hotel, my friend Oceana donned a pair of killer heels (as is her habit) and I thought I would point out that the pathways and roads were treacherously uneven and would she be better changing her footwear. Off came the heels and away we went, scooped up by our lovely driver who did not speak English (why would he?) and off to the market.

As we drew close, the smells and sounds were amazing, we drove alongside rows of stalls and passed by a large entrance area to what seemed be the covered market.IMG_2641

My friend, the Marmoset, has a habit of addressing all her questions to me in place of the person who may hold the actual answer so she queried “ is he going to park, we’ve gone past the entrance?” I shrugged and Oceana smiled across at the driver and said some thing like “we go to market now?” He smiled and nodded continued cruising along the road, then turned the car about and drove back towards the market, we shuffled about eagerly waiting for him to stop and again he drove straight past. Marmoset persisted in asking me what was going on – I was clueless but within a very short space of time we were back at our hotel.

We looked slightly vaguely at the driver and he smiled and said “you want go to somewhere else now?” It became apparent in the subsequent strange conversation that he was taking our safety incredibly seriously and wouldn’t dream of letting us actually walk through the market – so it was a drive by experience…. Oceana need not have changed her shoes.

I’m not sure why we didn’t argue about it as we very often do when peeved about things, however we settled for taking ourselves shopping at a later stage and once in Goa we shuffled around shops and stalls contentedly without need of protection!

The sights, sounds and smells of India are always with me, particularly when I am craving spice.

I digress… so supper tonight is a bowl of warmly spicy coconut dal, some rice, a few chapatti’s, some fragrant spicy prawn cakes and a little minted raitha with a mango cucumber salad. The perfect thing for what has been quite frankly a depressing week and on a cold and windy night, it all takes about half and hour to throw together.IMG_2706

I cannot tell you how rich, silky and delicious this lentil dish is…

When looking for speed, I use red lentils and the addition of some good curry powder – although this method lends itself to yellow lentils and the deliciously rich black urid dal but pre-soaking and longer cooking does apply.


For the coconut lentils

1.5 cups of red lentils, rinsed.

3 cups water

1 small onion, finely chopped.

1 heaped tsp ginger garlic paste

4cm ginger root, peeled and cut into small matchsticks

1 tbsp oil

1 flat tsp chilli powder

1 tsp turmeric

2 tsp’s mild curry powder

½ tsp fenugreek seeds

1 tsp sea salt

1 tsp garam masala

200 grams light coconut milk

A dried Kashmiri chilli and a few curry leaves for the tarka

Cover the lentils with the water and ½ tsp turmeric, bring up to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until the lentils have broken down and absorbed the water (if the water absorbs before the lentils are soft just add a little more water as you go).

Whilst the lentils are cooking, warm the oil in a saucepan and add the fenugreek seeds. Next add the onions and soften them without browning then add the ginger garlic paste, curry powder, chilli powder and remaining turmeric. Coat the onions with the spices without letting them burn.

When the lentils are soft, I like to lightly mash them a little with the potato masher and then add them to the spice and onion mix, stirring thoroughly.

Now add the coconut milk and allow it to warm through for a minute or two before adding the ginger, salt, a squeeze of lime and garam masala. Allow the flavours to mingle for a minute or two more and then add some fresh chopped coriander.IMG_2649

If you like, you can heat a little oil in the frying pan and add a dried chill and some curry leaves before pouring that over the finished dish.

For the prawn cakes


A large handful of raw tiger prawns, de-veined and chopped into small pieces.

4cm of finely chopped ginger root.

3 spring onions finely chopped.

¼ tsp turmeric

1 red chill, de-seeded and finely chopped.

1 small green chilli de-seeded and finely chopped

1 tbsp finely chopped fresh coriander stalk and leaves.

I medium egg

1 level tablespoon flour (adjust according to how wet your mixture becomes)

A squeeze of lime juice

½ tsp sea salt.

A little oil for frying

Do not, blitz the prawns into a pulp, these little cakes are nice with small prices of prawn so just chop them with a knife and then combine all of the above in a large bowl.

You want to achieve a dropping consistency.IMG_2681

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Take a dessertspoonful of the mixture and flatten it slightly once it hits the pan. Continue to do this taking care not to over crowd the pan, allow the cakes to ‘set’ in the oil until golden on one side – about 2 minutes, then carefully turn them over and wait until that side is golden.

Remove from the pan and drain onto kitchen towel to remove any excess oil. IMG_2695

Serve with a little minted raitha:

Combine 2 tablespoons of Greek yoghurt with 2 heaped teaspoons of jarred mint sauce and a dessert spoon of mango chutney and a little milk to loosen the mix.

We are having some chapatti’s to mop up.

Check out the link to The Beatles – Within in you and Without you from Sgt Pepper at the end of the post. The sitar is very evocative and it’s still a great track even after all these years….


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