Here’s a recipe for a delectable dahl with homemade naan, very easy, and a great way of eating more pulses to boost the intake and absorption of brain-balancing, mood-enhancing nutrients essential for mental health, reduce inflammation and generally provide a delicious dose of healthy comfort food. For an added aspect, make the naan breads to scoop up the lovely legumes in their rich, spiced sauce. Spare dough can be kneaded back together to bake into a loaf. Yum!

Getting enough good quality protein for the production of brain chemicals and hormones is crucial, with plant-based sources like beans and pulses in dishes like dahl providing a flexible, nutrient dense alternative to meat, or just providing a dish that’s easy to make in batches to use for lunches, side dishes or a main meal. And naan breads? Well, making your own bread is satisfying, fresh and additive/preservative free, and again, the dough, or cooked breads, can be adapted for different meals and uses. Busy lives don’t mean less delicious, fresh or easy food…..

Dhal has the balance of protein, carbohydrate and healthy fats needed at every meal for good mental health. Spices like ginger, turmeric and coriander are great additions to a diet for mental health, enhancing a spectrum of processes crucial to brain and hormone health.

Easy Dhal (serves 2-4, depending on whether as a main or side dish)

100g dried lentils, soaked overnight – this breaks down certain substances that can hinder digestion, and makes nutrients more available – you can use ready soaked lentils
1 can of red kidney beans, rinsed
1 onion, finely chopped
rapeseed oil
a small chunk of butter
1/2 tbsp grated fresh root ginger
1-2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 bay leaf
1 green chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced (optional)
a small pot of double cream
1/4 tsp garam masala
a handful of chopped coriander to garnish (optional)

Boil the lentils in 400ml water until almost tender (check every 15 minutes or so) Meanwhile, fry the onions and chilli until starting to soften, then stir in the fresh ginger, garlic and the spices. Cook over a low heat for a minute or so more to release the flavours, then add 400ml boiling water, plus the cooked lentils and any liquid. Add the beans and bay leaf, simmering for around 20 minutes more until thickened. When creamy and unctuous, stir in as much cream as you like, and season well. Serve in a bowl, dot with a little butter, sprinkle over the garam masala and scatter with coriander.

Naan Bread

500g plain white flour
7g of dried yeast (keep a box of sachets as a store cupboard ingredient)
300ml warm water (approx)
a tbsp of fine sea salt
a dollop of natural, live yoghurt or buttermilk
a couple of teaspoons of rapeseed oil

Activate the yeast by mixing with 100ml of the warm water in a separate container. Stir and leave somewhere warm for about 10 minutes until beginning to produce foamy edges.

Put the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, make a well in the middle, and pour in the foamy yeast, yoghurt and oil, plus the other 200ml of warm water. Mix, adding more water if necessary to produce a soft dough, not too wet or sticky.
On a lightly floured surface, knead the dough until it’s soft, pliable and smooth under your hands – this could take 5 minutes or 10, depending on how good you are at kneading!) Leave covered in a bowl wiped with a little oil (to prevent the dough sticking) somewhere warm until it’s double in size (around an hour)

When risen, turn out again and knead to knock out some of the air, separate roughly into four pieces, rolling each out until about 1/2 cm thick.

Rest these for a few minutes, then heat a little rapeseed oil in a heavy-based pan over a medium heat. Cook each naan (separately) for a few minutes on each side (when golden, turn over and do the same the other side) Serve straightaway.


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