Brixton Recipes: Caramelised Pumpkin Dal


We may not be able to admire the sight of the big pale green skinned pumpkins stacked up outside the A&C Deli on Atlantic Road all year round anymore thanks to the meddling of Network Rail, but luckily autumn brings us pumpkins and squash from elsewhere.

I love their soft orange flesh with buttery lentils, sweet onions and just an hint of acidity from tomatoes so it surprised me that I’d never made a dal with those ingredients before. This version is inspired by Imran’s fantastic dal at Elephant in Brixton Village but with a slightly harvest festival feel.

You could sub the butter for coconut oil if you’d like the meal to be dairy free. The Nour Cash and Carry do a great range of extra virgin ones at reasonable prices. You can also pick up all the other ingredients there too for literal one stop shopping that the supermarket will struggle to beat.

Caramelised Pumpkin Dal (serves 4 with leftovers if less greedy than me)

  • 300g pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed
  • 2 medium onions
  • 50g butter or extra virgin coconut oil
  • 250g masoor dal or red lentils
  • 2 large fresh tomatoes
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek
  • 1 teaspoon chilli powder
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1.5 inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped finely
  • 1.5 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 litre boiling water
  • salt and pepper to taste

Start by chopping your onions in half moons and caramelising them in half the butter or coconut oil over a low heat in a pan big enough to make the dal in. While they slowly turn golden brown, peel and chop the wedge of pumpkin or butternut squash and cut it into 3cm cubes.

After about 20 minutes, add the pumpkin to the onions along with the rest of the butter and turn the heat up a little so the butter bubbles without burning and saute the pumpkin until the edges start to colour.

While this is happening, cut a cross in the top and bottom of each tomato and place in a bowl. Pour boiling water over them and leave for a few seconds before lifting out with a spoon. Allow to cool slightly and then peel the now wrinkled skin off.

Roughly chop the tomatoes as well the garlic. Peel the ginger with the back of a teaspoon and finely chop it too. Add the tomato, garlic and ginger to the pumpkin after about 10 minutes and cook it all out for about 2 minutes.

Add the spices except the garam masala at this point along with the lentils and split peas and add the water. Stir well and season generously. Lentils need a good hand with the salt.

Bring it all the boil and then reduce the heat to a simmer so the whole thing blips gently as it cooks. Leave it to its own devices for 20 minutes while the lentils soften and the pumpkin becomes tender and it all thickens slightly. Add  more water if you want it soup style like in my photo. Otherwise sprinkle it with the garam masala as you take it off the heat and serve with rotis or flatbreads or rice. Some fresh coriander is excellent here.