Monday, 19 September 2011

Red Lentil Dal

The word Dal means "to split" in Sanskrit, which refers to the style of lentils that are used in this dish. Red lentils are split and stripped of their outer hulls and cook quicker than whole, green lentils do. This dish is an excellent source of protein, especially when combined with basmati rice and will fulfill your daily protein needs without meat.

I had been dying to try a dal recipe for quite a while, as I have been exploring vegetarian cooking through Indian cuisine, especially since I received a copy of Vij's At Home for my birthday a few months back.  I've also been working at a school where Indian/Pakistani food is what is eaten most by staff and students, so it's influenced my choices lately.  Indian food is really easy to make and quite inexpensive with a well stocked spice cupboard.  I recommend hitting up the bulk section at the grocery store and stocking up, dried spices cost next to nothing.

Yesterday morning I was checking one of my favourite recipe sites, Simply Recipes, and I noticed a Red Lentil Dal was posted.  I was stoked and tried it tonight for dinner.  This recipe was incredibly easy and really inexpensive and cooked up in about 20 minutes.  I adapted some of the ingredients from the original for ease and efficiency, as well as using what I had on hand rather than buying too many ingredients.  It's an incredibly satisfying stick to your ribs type of recipe.

Serves 4
1 cup split red lentils
3 cups water
3 plum tomatoes, diced (or 2 regular tomatoes)
2 tsp canola oil
1 medium white onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic very finely chopped (a micro plane grater would work well)
1/2 tsp sesame seeds (optional)
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (cumin powder will also work)
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds (whole)
1 bay leaf
1 tsp turmeric
1 lime including zest
1 bunch cilantro
Salt and Pepper
Cooked basmati rice (I used brown basmati)

Rinse red lentils and place into a medium sized pot.  Cover with 3 cups of water bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes on medium low until lentils are soft. Not all of the water will be absorbed.

While you're cooking the lentils, in a medium saucepan sauté the onions on medium heat in the canola oil until soft.  Add grated or finely minced garlic and cook for another minute being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add the sesame seeds, cumin, fennel and mustard seeds and stir until you hear the mustard seeds "popping." Stir in the turmeric and add the bay leaf.

To the spice mixture add the lentils including the water they are sitting in and stir the mixture together.  Season with salt and pepper and add tomatoes cooking for another 10 minutes.  When you are ready to serve add finely chopped cilantro, lime zest, and lime juice.

Serve over basmati rice and garnish with any leftover cilantro.

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