- Put the lentils in a heavy saucepan and pour in enough water to cover them by 7.5cm (3in). Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20–30 minutes or until tender. Drain well and keep warm.
- While the lentils are cooking, heat 1½ teaspoons of the oil in a large nonstick frying pan over high heat. Add the onion and stir to coat with the oil, then reduce the heat and cook, stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes or until soft. Stir in the sugar, raise the heat and continue cooking, stirring, until the onion is dark brown and crisp. Immediately pour on to kitchen paper to drain.
- To make tomato sauce, heat the oil in the saucepan you used to cook the lentils. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds, stirring. Stir in the turmeric and sauté for a further 30 seconds. Pour in the tomatoes with their juice and add the sugar. Bring to the boil, stirring. Reduce the heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10–15 minutes or until the sauce thickens a little. Season to taste.
- Heat the remaining 1½ teaspoons oil in the frying pan, add the cumin, coriander and cayenne pepper, and fry, stirring, for 30 seconds. Add the lentils and stir in seasoning to taste. Keep warm over a very low heat.
- Cook the macaroni in boiling water according to the packet instructions. Drain well. Spoon the macaroni on to a serving platter and top with the spiced lentils and the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with the chopped coriander and top with the crisp onions. Serve at once.
Some more ideas
Add 1 deseeded and thinly sliced red pepper in step 4, cooking it in the oil until slightly softened before adding the spices and cooked lentils.
*Lentils are an excellent source of iron and of dietary fibre, particularly the soluble type. They also provide useful amounts of many B vitamins.
*An onion topping like this is traditionally deep-fried, but here it is cooked in a small amount of oil in a nonstick pan, to reduce the fat content.