Warming comfort food for a chilly day
Bring a litre of vegetable stock to the boil in a large, deep saucepan, add 250g of small, red lentils, half a peeled onion, and 2 bay leaves and cook for 15-20 minutes until the lentils are soft enough to crush.
Meanwhile make a spice paste in a food processor with 40g of peeled ginger, 1 medium-sized red chilli, 3 peeled cloves of garlic, 2 tsp each of ground turmeric, cumin and garam masala, and half a teaspoon of hot (or mild) red ground chilli. Add 2 tbsp of groundnut oil. Blitz to a smooth paste.
Place a frying pan over a moderate heat, then fry the spice paste for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring almost constantly, until fragrant and sizzling, then stir in 150ml of water and 100g of creamed coconut. Simmer for 5 minutes.
When the lentils are soft, season with salt, discard the bay leaves and beat to a smooth, thick pure. You can use a food processor, stick blender or a whisk. Divide between deep soup bowls then stir in some of the spice paste. Combine the paste and pure with your spoon as you eat. Serves 4.
It is a good idea to make the spice paste while the lentils are cooking, but you could make a batch in advance, too, keeping it overnight in a bowl in the fridge. Remember to cover it with clingfilm otherwise it will taint everything in the fridge.
Use other pulses, perhaps haricot or soya beans, instead of the lentils, altering the cooking time as necessary. Soften the edges with double cream you will need about 250ml. I have also found this paste makes a good base for a sauce. Warm the paste in a deep pan, then add enough hot stock and cream to make a thick sauce. Fry chicken or lamb pieces until golden, then combine with the sauce and cook over a moderate heat till tender.