Saturday, April 2, 2011

Curried Lentils (Dal)

I was hovering over 5 different cookbooks, excitedly flipping pages, trying to decide which interpretation of this Indian dish I wanted to make when I landed on Mark Bittman's version in How to Cook Everything Vegetarian. It was so simple...exactly what I needed considering this was the first time I have cooked lentils on my own and the first time I had ever spiced an Indian dish with something other than curry powder. If I didn't know it before, I definitely know it now: I am completely head over heels in love with Indian food. 

Pureeing some of the soup and adding it back to the pot makes this subtly sweet and spicy stew luxuriously creamy. Served with rice this makes a perfect meal for two with leftovers (which have just improved everyday) or an ideal side or appetizer for four. 

I found the somewhat exotic ingredients at Sprouts and I bought them in the bulk section so I could purchase just what I needed. The jarred varieties I saw at generic grocery stores were kind of expensive however, I think it would have been totally worth it if I had had to buy them there. I also didn't follow his recipe exactly, I just used it as a starting point and guideline for cooking technique so this is my version adapted from here.

1/2 small yellow onion, diced
1 tsp oil
2 tbsp minced garlic
2 tbsp minced ginger
1/2 lb carrots ends trimmed and peeled, chopped into medium/small pieces
3-5 whole cloves
5-7 cardamom pods
1/2 tsp coriander
1 1/4 tbsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp tumeric
1 1/4 cups lentils, washed and picked over
4 cups vegetable stock or water plus a little for sautéing the onions
flat leaf parsley 

Sauté onion in the oil until it begins to soften (add a little bit of stock or water to help them along if necessary)
Add the garlic, ginger, carrots, cloves, cardamom pods, coriander, mustard seeds, cumin, and turmeric (keep track of how many cardamom pods and cloves you add so you can ensure you've removed all of them later)
Sauté until the spices are aromatic and carrots just begin to cook

Add lentils and stock (add stock or water until it is about 1 inch above the lentils)

Stir and cover
Cook on medium-low heat for about 30-45 minutes, stir occasionally, until the lentils and carrots are soft (add water or stock as needed so it doesn't get too dry)
Once the lentils and carrots are tender remove the cardamom pods and cloves from the pot

Remove two cups of the soup and puree in a food processor until smooth
Add back to the pot and let simmer for a couple of minutes until it is the consistency you want

Chop some flat leaf parsley and sprinkle on top
Serve with naan or brown basmati or jasmine rice

Servings 4
Per serving 160 calories

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