This dish has gradually changed over the years from a Macedonian dish called lecha, to something more resemblant of Indian daal. However you eat them, lentils are superb. Completely underrated, they are one of the finest legumes on plant earth. Perfect for vegans and vegetarians too due to their high iron, folate & protein content. They are also high in vitamins, particularly the B vitamins. These are some of the reasons why they have been the staple of vegetarian diets & civilizations of for thousands of years.
2.3-3 cups green lentils (dry)
2/3 of a white onion chopped
~10 cloves/1 head of garlic
~1/4 cup grapeseed oil
1 can of diced tomatoes (~700-796 ml)
2/3 cup coconut milk
few pinches of turmeric
salt & pepper to taste
*optional: fresh cilantro, cumin, coriander
Begin by cooking the lentils. Dry lentils taste completely different (much better) than canned ones, so it is worth it to take this extra step. They do not take very long to cook- simply pour them in boiling water, lower the heat to medium-high, stir & cook until they get bigger and soften. Since we will be cooking them further with the rest of the ingredients, do not cook them fully. Otherwise, by the end of this recipe they will become absolute mush.
Once the lentils are almost fully cooked, chop the onion & garlic (or even better, put the cloves through a garlic press). Fresh, fried onion & garlic are the start of all great flavourful dishes- there would be no successful cooking without them. If you are creating your own recipe and in doubt on where to start, always fall back on these two.
Heat your cooking oil of choice (for savoury dishes I always use grapeseed or avocado). Once its fairly hot, add in the onion & garlic and stir. The garlic will burn quickly if you are not watching it (especially if it was put through a press and is in minced form). Once the onion is soft, fragrant & translucent- and the garlic is starting to stick, add in ~ 2 cups of water to stop the browning. Do not wait for the garlic to brown, because as I said, it burns very fast. Unlike the onion it does not get golden brown (once its brownish its already burning).
While the onion, garlic & water are cooking, blend the diced tomatoes in the blender on high until smooth. Add this tomato puree to the pot & stir.
Let this mixture cook for a bit, then add the partially-cooked lentils that you have put aside to the pot.
Lower the heat and let everything cook for a while before you begin adding in the spices.
Now for the fun part! you can flavour this however you wish- I like lots of curry & paprika. I can't say exactly how much of each spice I added (trying to measure everything perfectly ruins the entire experience). Allow time for the flavours to saturate before you add in too much of anything.
Once you are satisfied with the flavour, add in the coconut milk & stir well.
Turn off the heat and let it cool- it will thicken a little bit. Pour into a bowl and garnish with coconut milk & fresh cilantro :)
P.S I did not have fresh cilantro on hand when making this (which I was very sad about because it pairs perfectly). Although if you don't have this wonderful herb either the dish is still delicious without!