Similar and yet completely different from black beans, are lentils. Lentils, like beans, are a staple of any vegetarian diet. They provide tons of protein as well as a lot of those fabulous minerals and vitamins we find in black beans. They’ve got lots of folate, fiber, phosphorous, vitamin B1, potassium and very few calories. On their own, they’re pretty tasteless, but when cooked with yummy Indian spices into dal, they’re amazing!
This recipe is from one of my favorite Indian cookbooks, The Healthy Cuisine of India by Bharti Kirchner. Not only does it have super delicious and easy recipes, but they’re all from the same part of the country as my husband — Kolkata (or as it was known and named by the British, Calcutta). I’ll probably be featuring a couple of other recipes from this same cookbook in the future — just to warn you. Cooking from this book is the closest I’ve been able to come to cooking what my husband would consider “home cooking”, ie, what his mother made for him as a child. J
- Musurir Dal (Onion-Frangrant Red Lentils)
- 3 ½ cups water
- 1 cup red lentils (see picture: they can be found at Whole Foods Market) – rinse them before cooking)
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 2 Tbs vegetable oil
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 whole dried red chilies
- ½ tsp kalonji seeds (can be found at your local Indian grocery)
- 1 cup thinly slivered onion
- Bring water to a boil in a pot.
- Add lentils and turmeric.
- Simmer covered until lentils are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Add salt and sugar.
- In a separate pan, while the lentils are cooking, fry bay leaves and red chilies in oil until chilies darken.
- Add kalonji. Fry for a few seconds until you get the smell from the spice.
- Add onion and fry until brown.
- When lentils are cooked, add the onion-spice mixture and stir into lentils.
- Add any water, as necessary to the dal. The consistency should be like a thick soup. My husband always complains because I make mine too dry, but I’m getting better!
If you have any, sprinkle the top with garam masala just before serving. And if you’re going to the Indian store to buy any of these ingredients, also pick up a jar of lime pickle to eat with your dal. It’s sour and spicy (but not too hot) and adds a lovely flavor (you put a tiny little bit on your fork with the dal and eat it together and the flavor just explodes in your mouth). Or if you prefer sweet, pick up a jar of sweet mango pickle to have with you dal.
Dal can be had alone as a meal in itself or as a side dish with the rest of your meal — a traditional Indian meal will consist of dal, rice, a meat or fish dish and usually two vegetable dishes. And that’s why so many Indian women don’t work — they spend the entire morning in the kitchen cooking!