Red lentil dal and sweet-sour pork: Nik Sharma's recipes for autumn comfort dishes

Autumn is a spectacular season, with its brightly coloured squashes and warm flavours. Unfussy, richly flavoured braises and stews sit bubbling on hot stoves. This week, I bring you a ginger-laced dal cooked with carrots and pumpkins, and a sweet-sour braised pork inspired by the coastal cooking I grew up with in India. These are meals that can be eaten at the dinner table, but which are also wonderful if you’re curled up on the sofa under a blanket.

Sweet and sour braised pork with tamarind and curry leaves (pictured top)

I keep a jar of tamarind paste in the door of my fridge at all times. Here it adds a majestic splash of fruity sourness to the pork. For a splash of heat, chop up a couple of green chillies and top the pork with them before serving. This dish goes best with plain rice.

Prep 5 min
Marinate 2 hr
Cook 50 min
Serves 4

1 kg boneless pork shoulder/butt
3 tbsp
neutral oil
stock (of your choice) or water
5cm piece fresh ginger, peeled and cut into thin strips
10-12 curry leaves
spring onions, trimmed and cut into thin slices
2 tbsp roasted peanuts or pumpkin seeds

For the marinade

4 tbsp tamarind paste
50g dark brown sugar
5cm piece fresh ginger
, peeled and grated
2 tbsp fresh lime juice
1 tbsp
fish sauce
2 tsp
ground cumin
1 tsp garam masala
1 ½ tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp dried red chilli powder
(preferably hot)
1 tsp ground black pepper

Trim and discard most of the fat from the pork, then cut the meat into 2.5cm cubes. Mix all the marinade ingredients to form a paste, then apply this to the pork in a large bowl, using your fingers to coat the meat well all over. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for two hours.

Once the pork has marinated, heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat. Add the pork to the hot oil, in batches if need be, and saute for about four minutes, until it is just starting to brown. Stir in the stock, bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cookfor about 45 minutes, until tender. Taste and add salt if necessary. Remove from the heat and transfer to a serving dish.

Heat the remaining oil in a medium saucepan over a medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, add the ginger and curry leaves, cover and swirl the pan until the leaves turn crisp and translucent – about a minute. Pour the hot oil, along with the ginger and curry leaves, over the pork.

Garnish with the spring onions and peanuts, and serve warm with plain rice.

Red lentil dal with carrots, pumpkin, and fried ginger

Nik Sharma’s red lentil dal, carrots, pumpkin, and fried ginger.
Nik Sharma’s red lentil dal, carrots, pumpkin, and fried ginger.

While I prefer to eat this with warm flatbread brushed with melted butter or olive oil and flaky salt, a bowl of plain rice would also make a worthy companion.

Prep 5 min
Cook 35 min
Serves 4

210g red lentils
3 tbsp
coconut oil
150g yellow or white onion
, cut into half moons
100g carrots, finely diced
200g pumpkin, peeled and diced into 2cm pieces
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground red chilli powder
Fine sea salt
2 tbsp fresh lime or lemon juice
1 tsp coriander seeds
, crushed
1 tsp black or brown mustard seeds
5cm piece fresh ginger
, peeled and cut into matchsticks
1 Kashmiri red chilli
10g chopped fresh coriander leaves

Clean the lentils for any debris, rinse under cold running water, then put in a bowl, cover with 500ml cold water and set aside.

Heat a tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat in a medium saucepan. Add the onions, and saute until they turn translucent – three to four minutes. Add the carrots and pumpkin, and saute until tender – about eight minutes. Stir in the turmeric and red chilli powder, and cook for a further minute.

Add the lentils and their soaking water to the vegetables, stir in a teaspoon of salt and bring to a rolling boil over a medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low, cover and leave to simmer until the vegetables are completely tender and cooked – about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the lime juice, taste and season with salt as needed.

Heat the remaining coconut oil in a small saucepan over a medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the coriander and mustard seeds, and cook until the seeds start to pop. Add the ginger to the hot oil, cover the pan with a lid and swirl for 30 seconds, until the mustard seeds stop sputtering.

Break the Kashmiri chilli in half and toss it into the hot oil. Remove from the heat and swirl the contents of the saucepan for another 30 seconds, until the chilli turns crisp. Pour this hot mixtureover the lentils. Garnish with the fresh coriander leaves and serve warm with buttered flatbread or plain rice.


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.  Learn more