5 tablespoons plain oil such as sunflower
4 onions, sliced
¼ teaspoon cardamom seeds
½ cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons coriander seeds
4 cloves
6 black peppercorns
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
4 cloves garlic
6cm piece ginger, peeled, sliced
2 green chillies (remove the seeds if you like less heat)
2 medium tomatoes, diced
4 sprigs curry leaves, stalks discarded
½ cup split red lentils, rinsed
2 medium boiling potatoes, cubed
2 cups small cauliflower florets
2 cups small broccoli florets
1 cup frozen peas
1 cup coconut milk
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
½ cup toasted cashew nuts, chopped
1 x quantity rice and lentils, to serve
warm roti, to serve
⅓ cup green or brown lentils
1 cup brown basmati rice
1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt
fried onions (reserved from making the curry)

I love the deep flavour and mild coconut of a Kerala-style curry. I have replaced the more traditional chicken with lentils and included more lentils in the rice for extra protein but you could serve with plain rice if you prefer. Cooking the onion is the most time-consuming part of this dish, but it is important to achieve a deep, rich flavour. If time is short you can skip the spice mix part and substitute 1 tablespoon of good garam masala instead. Like most curries and stews, this is even better heated up after a day or two; just hold off frying the curry leaves and mustard seeds and adding the cashews until you serve so they stay lovely and crunchy.


1.Heat 3 tablespoons of the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat, add the onions and a good sprinkle of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 25 minutes until the onions are golden (watch carefully towards the end as they can burn).
2.Remove half the onions to a bowl and set aside for the rice and lentils.
3.In a small frying pan, toast the cardamom, cinnamon, coriander, cloves, peppercorns and fennel seeds for 1-2 minutes until just smelling fragrant.
4.Place in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle and grind to a powder along with the turmeric. Set aside.
5.In a small food processor, mix the garlic, ginger, chillies and tomatoes to a paste.
6.Add this paste to the remaining onions along with the leaves from one sprig of curry leaves.
7.Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes before stirring in the ground spices and cooking for a further minute.
8.Add the lentils and potatoes along with 4 cups of water, bring to the boil and cook for 5 minutes.
9.Add the cauliflower, reduce to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes then add the broccoli and peas and cook for 5 more minutes.
10.Stir through the coconut milk and bring back to a simmer.
11.Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a small frying pan over a medium heat, add the mustard seeds and remaining curry leaves and fry for 30 seconds – be careful as they will spit.
12.Pour immediately over the curry and scatter with cashew nuts.
13.Serve with rice and lentils, or plain rice, and roti.
15.Put the lentils in a saucepan, cover with water and bring to the boil.
16.Boil for 5 minutes then drain.
17.Put the drained lentils back in the pan along with the rice, bay leaf, salt and 1½ cups boiling water.
18.Bring to the boil, cover then reduce to the lowest simmer you can and leave undisturbed for 20 minutes.
19.Turn off the heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving, topped with the reserved onions.

Recipes and food styling Fiona Smith / Photography Aaron McLean / Styling Fiona Lascelles

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