Welcome to my red lentil and butternut squash dhal recipe. This stew only has 4 ingredients. It also offers a nutritious, high-protein meal that you can serve along with rice, quinoa, oatcake wraps, or chapatis. It is a high-protein budget vegan meal and makes 8 portions.
If you are interested in dhal facts please read on, otherwise, simply jump right down to the recipe below.
What is dhal?
Extremely popular in India as a staple food, where dhal can mean a raw or cooked lentil. The term can be a little confusing as it means different things in various regions, stretching from a lentil, to a bean, to a legume.
Unlike beans, red lentil dhal does not require soaking before cooking. When cooked the lentils break down into a stew. Warming spices and sometimes a vegetable is cooked with it to make a meal. Dhal is a staple food in India with a zillion different varieties.
What is so good about dhal?
- Dhal is an excellent food if you are on a budget.
- It is a nutritious, high-protein meal.
- It keeps for a few days in the fridge or freezes.
- Dhal is excellent for batch making.
- Excellent feel-good food.
Red lentil dhal is an excellent vegan budget food
Lentils are nutritious and filling. They are cheap to buy and bulk up on cooking, making them a good budget ingredient.
Red lentils cook quickly and can be ready in only ten minutes. This means that less time and energy are required to cook them.
What does it cost to make this butternut lentil dhal?
I worked out the cost of this dhal per portion.
If I base it on 8 portions then it costs about 41 pence per portion (or £3.30 for the whole lot). That makes it extremely budget-friendly. This is based on food shopping in a middle-range priced supermarket in the UK (such as Tesco).
- 400g red lentils 80p
- 1.5kg butternut squash £2.00
- Fresh ginger 20p
- Garam masala 30p
£3.30 (41p per portion)
Red lentil & butternut squash dahl is good for batch making and freezing
You can make a huge pan of this dhal and then freeze it into batches. This makes it ideal for busy people or people who live alone.
Simply decide what portion size you require and then ladle your squash dahl into containers for freezing. Whenever you want some, take it out of your freezer, defrost it, and then reheat it in a pan.
This lentil dhal recipe is high in protein
Everyone I know loves dhal. Lentils are a rich source of dietary protein, containing all of the amino acids to varying degrees. Amino acids are the essential building blocks that make protein.
The amino acids cysteine and methionine are very low in lentils. Fortunately, these are found more abundantly in grains. This means that eating dhal along with a grain (rice, oats, spelt or wheat) is going to create a full complement of all 9 essential amino acids required for human health.
Roasted butternut squash adds a deep, sweet earthy flavour to dhal
One of the reasons I love making this dhal with butternut squash is for the deep, sweet earthy flavour that it gives. Roasting transforms the flavours, so if you can roast it, then I recommend doing so.
If you don’t have time or don’t have an oven then you can cut out the squash roasting process. Simply peel, cube and boil the squash instead. That will still work and give the dhal some great substance.
- 1.5kg (3⅓ lbs) butternut squash
- 400g (14oz/2 cups) red lentils
- 800ml (3⅓ cups) water
- 2 teaspoons ginger (finely grated)
- 1 heaped teaspoon sea salt
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- Cut your butternut squash in half and scoop out the seeds.
- Put the squash and a baking tray and then bake in a hot oven around 190C (375F/gas mark 5) for about an hour. The squash is ready when you can easily piece it with a fork.
In the meantime cook the lentils
- In the meantime rinse the lentils. You can rinse in a fine meshed seive until the water runs clear. Alternatively, just rinse in the pan with water and jiggle with your fingers, tipping out the water (the lentils sink to the bottom of the pan so they shouldn't pour out if you are careful) and repeating this several times.
- Add 800ml of water to the lentils and bring to the boil with the lid on.
- Stir the lentils a couple of times at the beginning of the cooking period, which stops them sticking to the bottom of the pan.
- Once the water is boiling, reduce to a simmer, putting the lid back on. Let them cook for about 10 minutes. By this time the lentils should be cooked and will have absorbed most of the water. Turn off the heat and leave them in the pan with the lid on until the squash is ready.
Finish off the dhal
- When you can pierce the squash with a fork take it out of the oven and let it cool down a little so that you can handle it.
- Scoop the squash out of the skin and put into a jug. Discard the squash skins.
- Finely grate two teaspoons of fresh ginger and add to the jug.
- Add the sea salt and garam masala to the jug.
- Mash or blend the squash the salt and spices.
- Add the squash mash to the cooked lentils. Reheat if necessary to serve.
- This keeps for a few days in the fridge. It also freezes well. If you freeze it them simply take out of the freezer, defrost it and then reheat thoroughly.