Parsnip Dhal Topped with Roasted Parsnips and Pink Pickled Onions Recipe

There are fewer things more comforting than a warming bowl of dahl, filled with seasonal root vegetables. Melissa Hemsley’s winter curry is ideal for an end of the week, one pot dish. 

This is ideal to make at the end of the weekend with any leftover root veg that didn’t make it into the Sunday roast. It will set you up nicely for Monday’s dinner – just reheat and top with the onions and yoghurt and either freeze the rest or enjoy later in the week with dosa-style pancakes, in a wrap or with fresh leaves and a crispy fried egg on top. 


4 tbsp ghee or oil
5 large parnsips
1 tbsp maple syrup
2 large onions, thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 thumb of ginger , finely grated
400g split red lentils, rinsed
2 large handfuls of fresh coriander,
   leaves & stems finely chopped separately
3 tbsp tomato purée
1 400ml tin of full fat coconut milk
200g leafy greens, like chard
   leaves & stems finely chopped
Yoghurt, to serve (optional)

Spice Mix
1.5 tsp ground turmeric
2 tbsp ground cumin
2 tbso ground coriander
2 tbsp black mustard seeds
A pinch of chilli flakes or powder
A big pinch of sea salt and black pepper

Pink Pickled Onions
2 large red onions, thinly sliced
Juice of 2 limes or 4 tbsp vinegar
A big pinch of sea salt
2 tsp maple syrup (optional)


Preheat the oven to fan 220°C / Gas mark 9 and melt 2 tbsp of the ghee or oil on a large baking tray in the oven.

Meanwhile, mix the spice mix in a small bowl and slice up three of the parsnips into about 18 wedges, say 5cm x 1.5cm, then toss the parsnip wedges in the oil on the tray with half of the spice mix. Pop in the oven for about 30 – 35 minutes, tossing halfway through with the maple syrup, until golden and going crispy on the edges.

In a large pan, fry the onion in the remaining 2 tbsp of ghee over a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occassionally, while you get on with everything else. 

Add the remaining half of the spice mix, plus the garlic and ginger and fry for 3 minutes.

Add the diced parsnip and lentils, the chopped coriander stems and the tomato purée and let fry. After a minute, add the coconut milk, then fill up the tin four times with hot water* (1.6 litres) and pour in, stirring well. Pop the lid on, bring to the boil and immediately turn down to a medium heat and let simmer for 20 minutes. Stir a few times throughout to make sure the lentils don’t stick. Add more liquid if you think it needs it or if you like your dahl soupier, like I do. 

Meanwhile, scrunch and massage the red onion in a bowl with the lime juice, salt and maple syrup, if using, for 30 seconds, then leave to bathe in the salty lime juice.

Once the lentils and parsnips in the pan are cooked, add the chopped greens, pop the lid on so they steam for 3-5 minutes until just tender, then taste for seasoning. Serve up each bowl, topped with the roasted parsnips, coriander leaves, pink pickled onions and their juices and a dollop of yoghurt, if you like. 

*TIP: If you have vegetable stock, use it instead of hot water for extra flavour.

Photography by Philippa Langley