These lentils get their unique sweet and sour flavour from tamarind. Known as the 'date of India' it has both a sticky sweetness and also a tangy sourness. The aubergines are slightly crispy and add a beautiful texture against the silky lentils.
The lentils should be quite thick and dry and so don't add too much water whilst it's boiling.
300 g lentils, any will do but I prefer yellow or red
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (optional)
6 black cardamom pods
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
1 cinnamon stick
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons chilli flakes or 1 teaspoon chilli powder
2 dried red chillies
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 aubergines, cut into 1 cm rounds
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
4 garlic cloves in their skins
3 tablespoons fresh coriander, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt, to taste
1. Wash the lentils in several changes of water before putting onto boil with around 2 pints of water.
Add the fenugreek seeds (if using) and stir well.
2. After a few minutes you will see foam rising to the surface of the water. Skim this off and repeat for around 10 minutes or until the water starts to look clear again.
3. Add the black cardamom pods, tamarind paste, cinnamon stick, cumin seeds, chilli flakes or chilli powder and dried red chillies. You can always add more chilli later if you like your dishes fiery.
4. Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / gas 6 and grease a lipped baking tray with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
5. Mix the rest of the olive oil with the turmeric powder and rub all over the cut aubergines before popping them in the tray. Try and fit them all in on 1 layer so they all go slightly crispy. Put the garlic cloves in the tray too and put in the oven to roast for half an hour.
6. Keep coming back to the lentils to stir them so they aren't sticking to the base of the pan. Don't be tempted to add too much water unless it looks really dry.
7. Check the aubergines. They should be golden brown and crisping up at the edges. Take them out of the oven and finish off the lentils.
8. Take the roasted garlic cloves out of their skins and crush the flesh with the back of a knife and stir them into the lentils. If there are any crispy bits chop them finely and add them too.
9. Remove the black cardamom pods and cinnamon stick (if you want) and add a really good pinch of salt. Add most of the coriander and squeeze in most of the lemon juice.
10. Taste and adjust the seasoning with chilli, salt and lemon if you want to.
11. Serve the lentils in a shallow bowl topped with some roasted aubergines and a final sprinkling of coriander and a little lemon juice.