Enjoy the last bursts of summer with a little ‘spirit and spice’ created by Ghillie Basan who combines world flavours with a good dram.

Body-warming, midge-busting dhal

 This spicy, nourishing dhal is a great dish for camping in Scotland – food to fill the belly, spices to warm you inside and out, and garlic to drive off the midges!  Cooked for breakfast, lunch, or supper, it is tasty and nourishing anywhere and any time of year. Lentils are easy to carry and easy to cook and it is up to you how firm or mushy and how spicy and garlicky you want your dhal to be. To make life easy when camping use a spice mix like garam masala or ras-el-hanout for the main flavour as both have strong cardamom, cumin, clove and black pepper overtones which warm you up from inside. Add chillies for extra heat if you like and use coconut milk as the cooking liquid for a creamier dhal, otherwise just use water from the nearest burn. At home, we often enjoy dhal as a dish on its own with yogurt, or a raita, lots of fresh coriander, and fruit chutney, such as my Raspberry Chaat Chutney.using fresh Scottish raspberries. With the spice in the dhal, the creaminess of the yogurt, and the fruit in the chutney, there is a lot going on in this dish, so you could enjoy it with the rich fruit flavour of Longmorn or the balanced oak and spice of Glenfiddich but it would be worth experimenting with some of the complex blends.


Serves 2 hungry campers, or 4 with all the trimmings at home

  • 1-2 tablespoons ghee, or vegetable oil with a little butter
  • 2 red onions, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • a large thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 fresh red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped, or 1-2 teaspoons dried chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 4-5 whole cloves
  • 2 teaspoons jaggery, muscavado sugar, or honey
  • 1 generous tablespoon garam masala or ras el hanout
  • 225g/8oz brown lentils, rinsed and drained
  • 800ml coconut milk, or a mixture of the two
  • sea salt


To serve

  • 4 tablespoons thick creamy yogurt
  • Raspberry chaat chutney (recipe below)
  • Fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • Heat the ghee in a heavy-based pan. Stir in the onion, garlic, ginger, chillies, cumin seeds and cloves with the jaggery and cook until fragrant and beginning to colour.


Stir in the garam masala, taking care not to burn the spices, then toss in the lentils making sure they are coated in the spices and ghee. Pour in enough water to only just cover the lentils and bring it to the boil. Stir in the coconut milk, bring it to the boil, reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 45 minutes, until almost all the liquid has been absorbed and the lentils are tender (if you like your dhal soupy or mushy, add more water or coconut milk and cook the lentils for longer). Season the dhal with salt – if you add the salt too early, you prevent the lentils from cooking properly.


Spoon the dhal into bowls, add a dollop of creamy yogurt, or rhaita, and top with the raspberry chaat chutney and a sprinkling of coriander.



Raspberry Chaat Chutney

 In Hindu, the word  ‘chaat’ refers to special vegetarian snack food with a hot-sour seasoning and ‘chaat masala’ is the blend of spices that provides those particular hot-sour flavour notes. With the pungent, sulphurous aroma of kala namak (black rock salt from north India), the sour notes of amchoor (dried green mango powder), and the warming flavour of roasted cumin, chaat masala is a delightful hot and sour spice. This chutney combines some of the chaat spice notes with fresh Scottish raspberries, or wild ones if you enjoy foraging for your food, to make a unique chutney that goes well with curries, dhal, rice and spicy barbecues.

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon ajowan seeds
  • 250g/9oz fresh raspberries
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey, jaggery, or muscovado sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 teaspoon kala namak (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon pul biber, Aleppo pepper, finely chopped dried chillies

Dry roast the cumin, mustard and ajowan seeds in a heavy-based pan, until they are fragrant and the mustard seeds begin to pop up and down.

Add the raspberries to the pan, lightly crushing them with the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the ground spices and chilli and cook gently for about 10 minutes until thick and almost jam-like.  Adjust the hot, sweet and sour to your taste, depending on the sweetness of the raspberries, and leave to cool. If you are not using this immediately, you can spoon it into a sterilized jar and keep it in the refrigerator for four to six weeks.


The recipes are taken from her new book

Spirit & Spice (Kitchen Press: £25)



insta @ghilliebasan