Red Lentil Dal

Vegetarian dinner, day 2!  And another day to use the new bowl cozies I made.  These are a genius invention for those of us who mostly eat while sitting on the couch.  Equally useful for carrying hot bowls back and forth to the table.

So cute!  But I digress.

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I love Indian food.  Love it.  And frequent trips to London have helped me love it all the more.  I didn’t eat dal for a long time.  Let’s be real, they mostly look pretty gross.  And I have some texture issues with food anyway.  But I’ve come around.  There are all kinds of lentils, the base of dal.  Some of them hold their shape and some don’t.  The red ones don’t, but this tastes so good it doesn’t matter.  Keeping your rice a little firm helps balance the texture as well.

One of the wonderful things about Indian food is the layers of spices.  And these are all spices you can find in any grocery store, but some of them you may not keep on hand.  We’ll talk substitutions as we go.  I found the recipe on a site called “The Wanderlust Kitchen” that seems to have a lot of good stuff, so check that out when you have a minute.

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 cup red lentils, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1 green chili pepper, stemmed, seeded, and minced (serrano for spicy, jalapeno for more mild)
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tablespoon finely minced ginger root
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • Juice of one half a lemon
  • Chopped cilantro leaves and plain yogurt for garnish

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I think you could substitute ground cinnamon and ground cumin for the stick and the see forms, respectively.  I’d advise against using ginger powder instead of fresh, but if you have bottled, that’s probably ok.  Cardamom is a unique flavor so worth buying a small jar.

Here’s what you do (annotated):

Place the rinsed lentils in a medium saucepan along with 3 cups of room temperature water. Cook over medium heat for 20 minutes.

I brought mine to a simmer and cooked them with the lid mostly on, but tilted to vent.  Start the rice at the same time as the lentils.  Add some salt to the water for both the lentils and the rice.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a medium skillet set over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds and cinnamon stick; cook for 60 to 90 seconds, until fragrant.

I broke my cinnamon stick in half to release more flavor.

Add the onion, green chili pepper, garlic, and ginger; cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until the onions are turning translucent.

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Add the turmeric, cardamom, paprika, salt, and tomato to the pan. Cook until the tomato begins to fall apart, about 2 to 3 minutes. Discard the cinnamon stick.

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Stir the spiced onion mixture into the pot of lentils. Add the lemon juice and stir well. Taste and add salt as needed.

Garnish with cilantro; serve with basmati rice and naan.

I left off the naan and added a dollop of yogurt.  I also added more lemon juice and some salt.  

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Here’s what I thought:

It comes together easily enough to make for a week night meal or as a side.  It took me longer than the 20 minutes quoted in the original, but that could be me.  My technical knife skills aren’t bad, but I’m not fast.  Takes me a few minutes to get all the chopping and measuring done.  I’ve become increasingly appreciative of mis en place – getting all the prep work done before the cooking begins.  It’ll save you time in the end.

It definitely needed more lemon juice and salt.  Lentils are pretty earthy on their own and they take spice very nicely.  This is a rich and wonderful dish.  I chose the jalapeno over the Serrano chili so it wasn’t overly heat spicy.  Just enough to liven up all of the other spices.  An excellent dish for a cold January night. This is one to add to your list of comfort foods.

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One Response to “Red Lentil Dal”

  1. joydesignsyourdreams Says:

    AMAZING!!

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