Lentils in chilli-infused coconut milk


Preparation info

  • Difficulty


  • Serves


Appears in

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook: 300 Classic Recipes from the Great Regions of India

The Complete Indian Regional Cookbook

By Mridula Baljekar

Published 2017

  • About

Flavoursome lentils are combined with deep green spinach and rich coconut milk to create this simple but unforgettable dish, Dali Ambat. Plenty of protein and fibre in the lentils make it an excellent vegetarian main course. Serve this with boiled basmati rice for a satisfying meal.


  • 200 g/7 oz red split lentils
  • 250 g/9 oz spinach, fresh or frozen, chopped
  • 5 ml/1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 45 ml/3 tbsp sunflower oil or light olive oil
  • 2 dried red chillies, snipped
  • 2.5 ml/½ tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 200 ml/7fl oz/scant 1 cup canned coconut milk
  • 30 ml/2 tbsp tamarind juice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • Plain Boiled Rice, to serve


  1. Wash the lentils in a sieve (strainer) in several changes of water. Drain, transfer to a pan and pour over 750 ml/ pints/3 cups water. Place over a high heat and bring it to the boil.

  2. Boil, uncovered, for 8–9 minutes, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 25–30 minutes, until the lentils are soft.

  3. Add the spinach and turmeric, cover and simmer for 10–12 minutes.

  4. Meanwhile, heat 15 ml/1 tbsp of the oil in a frying pan over a low heat and fry the chillies and fenugreek seeds gently until they are a shade darker. Take care not to burn them or they will taste bitter.

  5. Remove the spices from the heat, leave to cool, then crush them to a fine paste with a mortar and pestle or the back of a spoon, along with the flavoured oil.

  6. Add the spice paste to the lentils and pour in the coconut milk. Add the tamarind juice, stir well and simmer for 5–7 minutes. Remove from the heat and keep hot.

  7. In a separate pan, heat the remaining oil over medium heat and fry the onion for 8–10 minutes, until it begins to brown. Stir the onion into the lentils, remove from the heat and serve with Plain Boiled Rice.

Per portion Energy 319kcal/1342kJ; Protein 15g; Carbohydrate 39g, of which sugars 11g; Fat 13g, of which saturates 2g; Cholesterol 0mg; Calcium 166mg; Fibre 8.1g; Sodium 163mg.