Sunday, April 25, 2010
In the last few months I've grown to love cooking Indian food. Most of all, I love the spices - ginger, cumin, garlic, mustard seed, fennel, turmeric, cardamom... and I have amassed quite a collection. In addition to tasting great, many of these spices have wonderful health benefits (ginger and fennel fight bacteria and inflammation and turmeric has strong cancer fighting properties). The recipe posted below for dal is a combination of insights from my lovely and talented friend Vagisha and the dozen or so South Asian cookbooks I've read cover to cover recently.
Here's a little info on dal, for those who may be unfamiliar with that term: In Indian cuisine, the term dal is used to refer to lentils and other legumes. There are many varieties of dal used in Indian cuisine and they are prepared in many different ways. In this recipe I use red lentils, but you could substitute yellow split peas or split mung beans (mung dal)- all of these varieties of dal cook down to a creamy texture (rather than remaining individual beans, they will resemble refried beans once they are cooked). Some dal including chana dal (split chickpeas) and brown and green lentils retain a firmer texture when cooked - you could also use them in this recipe if you prefer solid legumes, but you will need to cook them about twice as long. Dal (all varieties) are a staple food item in India; being legumes they are a great source of lean protein and fiber. Dal are typically eaten with rice or various types of Indian bread (naan, roti, chappati, etc.). Sometimes dal are served as an entree (especially in parts of India where vegetarianism is the norm), but sometimes they are served along with a meat dish. I ate this dal with some steamed basmati rice and sauteed cabbage. It was a yummy, nutritious and filling vegetarian meal.
One last note: this recipe is quite simple to prepare, but the ingredient list is a little long and a few of the spices may be unfamiliar to some of you. I encourage you to find an ethnic grocer - either a brick and mortar building or an online vendor - and explore the spice isle!
2 Cups Red Lentils (or whichever variety you prefer)
4-5 Cups Broth or Water (I used about half chicken broth, half water)
1 teaspoon Turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt (plus more to taste - unless you are using a very salty broth)
1/4-1 teaspoon red chili powder (depending on how spicy you want it to be, I used 1/2 teaspoon)
Seeds from 8 Green Cardamom Pods, or around 1/2 teaspoon cardamom seeds
2 Tablespoons Oil
1 Large Onion, diced
3-4 Large Garlic cloves, minced
2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Small handful of cilantro, coarsely chopped
In a large pot over medium-low heat combine the lentils, 3 cups of water or broth, turmeric, salt, chili powder and cardamom. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook until the lentils are very tender, and beginning to turn into a paste. **Add more water or broth along the way a little at a time as needed for the lentils to cook thoroughly without getting too thick (you should end up with a slightly thin refried bean texture). It should take around 20 minutes for the lentils to cook. Set the cooked lentils aside.
In another large pot heat the oil and saute the onions until they are translucent. Add the garlic, cook another 5 minutes stirring frequently. Add the ginger, mustard seeds and cumin seeds, and cook another minute. Add the cooked lentils to the onion mixture, stir well to combine. Taste the dal and add more salt if necessary. Just before serving stir in the chopped cilantro. Enjoy!
By the way, I've included this recipe as part of several weekly recipe sharing events: Slightly Induglent Tuesday, Tempt my Tummy Tuesday, Tasty Tuesdays and Tuesdays at the Table. Check out all the great recipes other bloggers have contributed!