This fruity stew -- inspired by the classic Indian dish "dal" -- makes a surprisingly satisfying breakfast: It’s kinda sweet and kinda salty, thus appealing both to those who want a starchy, sweet start to the day and to others (myself included) who like a plate of filling, savory food before they get going.
Of course you can enjoy this dish at any time of the day, diluted, if you like, into a more soupy texture with stock, water or coconut milk (heavenly!). If you’re wondering how on earth to make the time to cook dal in the morning: cook it ahead! I usually make twice this amount, freeze it in small containers and defrost these whenever the need arises, mornings included. I also freeze batches of cooked basmati rice to serve alongside this dish and others.
From a nutritional point of view this hits all the right buttons, for almost every ingredient in this dish has anti-cancer properties. Here's a non-exhaustive list:
- Onions and garlic contain organocsulfur compounds that help prevent the onset and progression of certain types of cancers, especially stomach, colorectal, laryngeal and esophageal cancers.
- Ginger has powerful anti-inflammatory properties, has been found to induce cell death in ovarian cancer cells and to inhibit the growth of colorectal cancer cells.
- Curry, and specifically one spice that gives it its yellow color, turmeric, are thought to reduce inflammation, inhibit the rapid growth of cancer cells, induce their self-destruction (apoptosis) and discourage the growth of blood vessels feeding tumors.
- Legumes such as lentils contain plant chemicals that may play a role in cancer prevention, such as saponins, protease inhibitors and phytic acid. Many legumes also contain natural compounds that resemble a weak form of estrogen. These may protect against certain types of cancer, notably breast and prostate cancer.
- Apples contain a long list of cancer-protective plant compounds such as quercetin, chlorogenic acid and (if they're red) anthocyanins. These are mostly concentrated in the skin, so buy organic apples and leave the skin on. Research suggests that apples can help lower the risk of variuos cancer types, including colon, breast and lung cancer.
- Tomatoes are rich in antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds (the best known of which is called lycopene) and are thought to lower the risk of prostate, breast and pancreatic cancer. One of its compounds, called alpha-tomatine, has also been shown in laboratory studies to trigger the self-destruction (apoptosis) of prostate cancer cells.
- Citrus fruit such as limes contain a range of compounds with antioxidant, anti-cancer and immune-boosting properties. Limes, for instance, contain flavonoids that have been shown to stop cell division in various types of cancer cells.
- Cilantro contains an exceptionally high concentration of plant nutrients (e.g. carvol, geraniol, limonene, quercetin, epigenin, kaempferol and many others) with antimicrobial and blood-sugar balancing properties.
- Coconut fat and ghee, whilst not having any proven "anti-cancer" properties, are excellent fats to use in cooking as they do not degrade at higher temperatures. Most plant oils are oxidized by heat, thus creating free radicals that can attack our cell membranes and lead to cancerous changes.