Living in Sri Lanka means living a life of spice! There's really nothing quite like a good Sri Lankan curry, with it's rich depth of flavour. Curry just gets under your skin... it soon becomes a craving that no other cuisine can really satisfy. And, if you aren't lucky enough to live with a Sri Lankan aunty, you'll find yourself making excuses to buy rice and curry packs from down the street every second day...
It also means forming a close relationship with daal. There's literally a side of 'Parippu' (lentil daal) with just about every meal here. I mean, even for breakfast. Problem is, it's typically served with a huge helping of rice, string hoppers, milk rice... basically all the carbs. So, I figured out a way to get my daal fix, but on the lighter side – starting with a South Indian Daal Fry recipe, adding a little Sri Lankan twist, then making it into soup. Be gone, rice! I don't need you now!
Don't be afraid by the long list of ingredients here, it's worth the time, and once these spices become pantry staples, you will use them again and again. Also, if you can't find curry leaves where you are, or roasted curry powder – just leave them out. If you can only find one type of lentil, use that – it's a very flexible recipe. Here we go...
1/2 cup red lentils
1/4 cup yellow lentils
3.5 cups water
2/3 cup coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock
for the curry paste
2 tsp coconut oil
½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
1 hot green chilli, finely chopped
1 cup spring onion bulbs, diced
5 or more cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 inch of ginger, finely chopped
6-8 fresh curry leaves
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp roasted curry powder
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp chilli powder
2 large tomatoes, chopped small
1 tsp lemon juice
2 handfuls of baby spinach
2 handfuls of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Wash the red and yellow lentils, drain. Combine in a large saucepan with water over medium heat. Cook for 18 to 20 minutes or until yellow lentils are tender. Reduce heat to low and simmer.
Next, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds. Let them start to sizzle and pop (the cumin seeds should change colour and become fragrant). Add the chilli, onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves and a pinch of salt. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion becomes translucent.
Add the ground coriander, curry powder, turmeric and chilli powder and mix well. Add the tomatoes, lemon juice and a tbsp of water and mix. Cook until the tomatoes are saucy, mashing the larger pieces. Now, add the contents of the skillet to the saucepan along with the lentils.
Add the coconut milk and vegetable stock and continue to simmer the soup for 3 to 4 minutes or until bubbling. Taste and season accordingly with salt, pepper or a squeeze of extra lemon juice. Finally, add the baby spinach and half the chopped coriander and stir through just before serving. Garnish with coriander and serve with flatbread on the side.