Monday, April 8, 2013

Simple Lentil Dal with Cumin and Dried Red Chiles

Every once in a while I crave this simple, spicy soup.  The first time I tried this recipe from my Indian Home Cooking cookbook, I fell in love with it.  It's quick, healthy, flavorful and inexpensive.  In my book, you can't beat that combination.  This was actually our lunch on one of our Meatless Mondays and I was surprised to find that I had not already posted this recipe.

Simple Lentil Dal
Makes 4 servings

1 cup red lentils, picked over, washed and drained
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon salt
4 cups water

Tempering Oil:
2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/4 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 small whole dried red chiles
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 lime or lemon, juiced

Put the lentils into a large saucepan with the turmeric, salt, and water.  Bring to a boil and skim well.  Turn the heat down and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft, (15 minutes for  red lentils) 20 to 30 minutes for brown lentils.  Add more water if necessary.  Taste for salt and add more if you need to.

Ladle about 1/2 cup of the lentils into a small bowl and mash them with a spoon.  Return the mashed lentils to the pot and give the dal a stir.  Then continue cooking at a simmer, uncovered for 5 minutes to thicken.  If you like a thicker dal, use a whisk to break up the lentils into a puree.  If you like a thinner dal, add water.

For the tempering oil, combine the oil and the cumin seeds in a small frying pan over medium-high heat and cook stirring, until they turn a light brown color, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the whole chiles and cook, stirring about 30 more seconds.  Remove the pan from the heat and add the cayenne, and sprinkle in a few drops of water to stop the cooking.

Stir half of the tempering oil and all of the lime or lemon juice into the dal and simmer gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes  Transfer the dal to a serving bowl and drizzle the remaining tempering oil over the top.  Serve hot.

Slightly adapted from Indian Home Cooking

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