Indian Whole Lentils with Herbs and Spices

Dal – a soupy mixture of lentils in herbs and spices – is probably my FAVOURITE dish in the Indian cuisine. This recipe adapted from Cooking with my Indian mother-in-law is a flavourful and much healthier version (i.e., less oily) than some of the dal you will find in Indian restaurants.

Whole Lentils with Herbs & Spices

Prep 25 mins

Cook 45 mins

Serves 4 with rice, or 2 as part of a complete meal

  • 225g (slightly more than 1 cup) of brown lentils (alternatively, use 175g of yellow lentils w/o skin and 50g red split lentils)
  • 1-2 green chillies
  • 1 fat clove garlic
  • 4 cm ginger, peeled
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tomatoes, skinned and halved
  • 1 tbsp canola or peanut oil
  • 1/2 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon dhana jiru (blend of ground coriander seeds and cumin seeds)
  • Pinch of turmeric
  • 1/2 tbsp finely chopped coriander (cilantro) stems
  • 1/2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander (cilantro leaves)
  1. Wash the lentils in several changes of water until the water is clear. Drain and put them in a put with 2 litres or 8 cups of water. Bring to the boil without the lid. Skim off any scum that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat and simmer the dal for 35 minutes or until it is soft.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, make the tomato mixture. Top and tail 1-2 (depending on how much spiciness you can take) of the green chillies. Put chillies, garlic, ginger, salt and tomatoes into a food processor and blend the mixture until well blended and finely chopped up.
  3. Heat the oil in a soup pot, add the mustard seeds and onion and fry until pale golden. Add the butter. When melted, add the dhana jiru and turmeric. Cook the spices for a few seconds, then add the tomato mixture and the coriander stems. Increase the heat and simmer the masala (tomato mixture) until the oil pools around the sides of the pot. Set aside.
  4. When the lentils are cooked, take a whisk and beat the mixture to make it as smooth as possible. Add it to the cooked masala in the soup pot and bring the mixture to boil and simmer for 10 minutes. Depending on your preference, you may wish to add more water to achieve the consistency of a thin soup.
  5. Add pepper and more salt if necessary, and serve hot with coriander leaves scattered over.

notes/tips:

a. To skin tomatoes, pierce the bottom of each tomato with a “X” using a small kitchen knife. Put the tomatoes in a deep bowl and pour freshly boiled water over them (enough to cover them completely). Leave for around 5 minutes, remove the tomatoes from the bowl and you will be able to peel off the skin easily starting from the “X”.

b. Whole lentils with skin will give your dal more bite. If you prefer something softer and more mushy, use lentils without the skin.

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