Dal – one of the staple foods of millions worldwide… like other peas, beans, legumes and their ilk, these little split goodies provide a cheap and fulling source of protein and nutrition to untold numbers of people on a daily basis.
I approached cooking dal with a bit of trepidation – I knew they would be good for me, and certainly at least palatable, and I’d probably be proud of myself for eating it and having something else in my “healthy diet” arsenal… but I didn’t expect them to be down-right better-than-just-edible… and that’s what these are: Delicious Dals.
Dals are best know as a part of Indian cuisine, so of course I looked to Suvir Saran for recipes and pulled out my trusty copy of “American Masala”. I tried his “not-so-dull dal” and was, well, blown away. I was amazed that such simple ingredients produced such wonderful results! I doubted it was actually as good as I thought it was, so I shared the results with several people, and all agreed that it was an exceptional-tasting dish!
I played with the recipe a bit, using some of Suvir’s recommended alterations/additions to the basic recipe, made a little tweak or three of my own, and what you have is the recipe below. So let’s tarry no longer: Let’s Cook!
Most of the suspects...
3 Tbl Canola Oil
2 Tsp Cumin Seeds
1 Tsp Mustard Seeds
4 or 5 Dried Red Chilies (if you’re a bit of a wussy about heat, you can cut don’t to 1 or 2, but don’t omit them totally – remove after initial frying if you want)
A pinch (1/16th of a Tsp?) Asafetida Powder (from the Indian market, don’t sweat it if you don’t have, just omit it)
12 Fresh (or Frozen) Curry Leaves, torn into small pieces (optional, also from the Indian market)
The seeds and such...
1 Red Onion, quartered and cut into thin slices
1 Jalapeno, finely chopped (remove seeds and ribs if you want to reduce heat – again don’t omit totally if you like a mild dish, just use half a pepper sans the insides)
Sliced Red Onion and Chopped Jalapeno
1 Tbl Kosher or Sea Salt
3 Garlic Cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 1/2 Cups Dal, rinsed and drained well (I used Masoor Dal, but you can use Channa Dal/yellow split peas, or even the regular lentils that you’ll find in the grocery should work well)
1 Can (14.5 ounce, or thereabouts) Diced Tomatoes (if you like even extra heat, you won’t hurt my feelings of you use that can of Rotel you have in the cupboard)
1 Container (32 oz) Vegetable Stock (or Chicken Stock/Broth if you don’t care about the dish being 100% vegetarian, you can even use all or part water if you must – it will still turn out nice)
Juice of 1/2 a Lemon (plus more for serving if desired)
Chopped Cilantro, if desired for serving
Heat the oil is your large cooking vessel of choice over medium-high heat (I used my mother’s cast iron Dutch oven as usual).
Add the cumin and mustard seeds, the dried peppers and the curry leaves (if you have). Stir for 1 – 2 minutes until the spices darken slightly and become aromatic – be careful as the mustard seeds will want to fly out of the pan – use a splatter screen if you have one.
If you’re using asafetida, add and stir for a few (20 or so) seconds.
Put in the onion and jalapeno and stir until staring to get soft, a couple of minutes.
Add the salt and garlic, and stir and cook until all is getting happy, soft and aromatic…
It's smelling good in here...
Stir in the drained lentils and cook for a minute or so…
add a half-cup of the broth and deglaze the pan until the liquid is pretty much all cooked off.
Add a couple of cups of the broth and the tomatoes (no need to drain) and bring to a boil.
Reduce to a simmer, partially cover, and cook about 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.
Add more broth as needed to just keep the ingredients covered…
yep – we’re basically gonna cook these puppies like a risotto…
Uncover and add the lemon juice…
Continue to simmer uncovered, adding more broth if needed, until the lentils are tender but not turned to mush.
Taste and adjust seasoning as needed…
but I’m betting you’re going to be amazed… at most you may want a bit more salt…
You can fish out the dried chilies if you like (they will provide quite a jolt to someone who bites down on one unexpectedly).
I like to make this dal very thick (maybe the consistency of cooked oatmeal?) – many dal recipes are much more soupy, and meant to be eaten as such. If you want you can add more liquid during the cooking process and serve the stuff in a bowl (add some rice, dunk some bread into it… can’t be bad). You could also make this as described above, and later add extra broth or water to all or part of it if you decide you want it thinner.
You can serve this along with some rice and a veggie dish (or two, add some bread if you’d like) and eat very well and healthy for very little money…. this can also be a hearty side to some protein item like a grilled chicken or fish.
Delicious Dal, along with some brown rice and a stir-fried cabbage dish
Sprinkle on some cilantro if you’d like… squeeze a bit of lemon… some plain yoghurt wouldn’t be out of line either…
Please, make this. Maybe I’ve over-hyped it, but damn… it’s good…
Once again, I’m heading back to the kitchen… see you soon!