I could live off Dal (I think quite alot of people do in India !)… Isn’t it wonderful when “healthy” also falls under the heading of “comfort food” ?
Dal (daal, dhal etc.) is a broad term that refers to legumes (lentils, peas, and beans) that are cooked and spiced. I’m sure there are an infinite number of recipes for Dal though one of its endearing qualities is the lack of need for a recipe. Get the water to lentil ratio about right and play with it from there. One of my favourites is this base, made with red (actually orange, go figure ;)) lentils. PS : red lentils are a great source of iron ….
The most exciting bit of this dish lies just before serving. . . TEMPERED OIL. Once you try tempering spices in oil, you’ll be flavouring all of your curries this way….
Oil, or even better Ghee is heated, spices are added and the whole sizzling lot is poured into your finished dish. Total transformation, trust me 🙂
Simple Lentil Dal
- 1 cup (200 g) red lentils (picked over if needed, and rinsed)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 4 cups (235 ml) water
- 2 – 3 Tablespoons oil or Ghee
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 or 2 whole dried red chilies
- 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds (lightly crushed in a mortar & pestle)
- Finish the dish with the juice of 1/2 a lemon or lime if you like
Put the lentils into a large saucepan with the turmeric, salt and water. Bring to a boil and skim the foam that rises. Simmer, covered on a low heat until the lentils are soft, 20 minutes or so. Add more water if necessary and taste for salt. Some like their Dal thick some like it soupy, its up to you.
For the tempering oil, combine the oil, coriander seeds and the cumin seeds in a small pan and heat over a moderate heat, stirring until they colour slightly (1 minute). Add the chilies and cook, stirring for another 30 seconds. CAREFUL NOT TO BURN THE SPICES. Pour the oil and spices into the Dal, add the lemon or lime juice if using and simmer for another 5 minutes before serving. Serve on its own, with rice or Naan bread, or as part of a curry feast.
Bon appétit !
Some yummy variations to play with:
- Before adding the lentils, fry a grated onion until soft adding chopped ginger and garlic just before the lentils and water go in.
- Add a chopped fresh tomato just before the lentils are done.
- Replace half the water with coconut milk.
- Top with fresh coriander (cilantro).
- Play around with other spices, either added with onion at the beginning or in the tempering oil; cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, garam masala, black mustard seeds, curry leaves etc…
- Top the dish with crispy fried onions or leeks just before serving.