I learned two things with the recipe.
1. Throwing lentils in a pot and calling it dinner, isn’t just a ‘Leah’ thing. Other people do it too.
2. Don’t try dry roasting Garam Masala. Just don’t.
To my first point, I’ve been eating cooked lentils for years. It’s quick, easy, and ridiculously cheap. Split red lentils in particular cook up extra fast, and with a little salt, aren’t bad – a little bland, but still perfectly edible. Lentils are a blank canvas – kind of like tofu. Plain, they’re very lightly flavored, delicately textured, and the perfect accompaniment to a ‘louder’ dish. Spruce them up a bit though and they can quickly become the life of the party!
I’ve been experimenting with different takes on lentils for a while now. They are such a versatile dish, going from a classy yet muted French accompaniment, served with a flavorful roast duck, to the heart and soul of a mouth-numbing, and oh-so-addictive curry all by just altering a few spices. I even made them once with a ginger-carrot puree under a sweet and crispy teriyaki tofu ‘steak’. Heaven.
But lately I’ve been on an Indian food kick, so I decided to resurrect my old Dal recipe and perfect it. I tweaked a few quantities here and there for the spices, and I added a step to skin the tomatoes which really helps with consistency. I know it adds a few minutes on, but trust me, it’s worth it.
I also tried dry roasting my garam masala. Mistake. Maybe it made it taste better, I wouldn’t know. The powder burned and stuck to the bottom of the pan, and what didn’t stick plumed up into the air like a mini destructo-bomb. I have been coughing for two days straight now and feel like I have permanently burned the inside of my nose with India flavor. So maybe it’s not the end of the world after all.
So that being said, don’t make the same mistake I did, put your garam masala into the spice grinder and skip the pan.
Also beware of the Thai chilies. They have great flavor, and without doubt elevate this dish, but they can also take over very quickly. Two of them is plenty to season everything, and if you’re sensitive to spice, maybe just stick with one. Unless you’re made of adamantium, you’re also going to want to make sure that you seed them. The seeds are where the real spice is. I made my husband try it without seeding, and he’s pretty tough (IMHO)!! Regardless, it had his eyes watering and mouth stinging for awhile. You have been warned!
I like my Dal thick. Like scoop up with a chunk of Naan thick. If you prefer it soupier, than just add some more water in the final step where the lentils get blitzed in the blender. Also, after sitting in the fridge for a day or two the lentils will absorb more liquid, so you may want to thin it out a bit before reheating.
This can keep in the fridge for up to a week and will actually taste better the longer it sits. I doubt it will sit around that long though!
- 1 1/2 Cup Red Lentils, halved
- 1 tsp Salt
- 1 tsp Lemon Juice
- 3 medium Tomatoes, cored
- 1 medium Onion
- 1/2 inch Ginger root, peeled
- 2 cloves Garlic, peeled
- 2 whole Jalepenos, stemmed
- 1/2 inch Turmeric Root, peeled
- 2 Tbsp Cilantro
- 2/3 Cup Vegetable Stock
- 1 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 2-3 whole, seeded Dried Thai Chili (bird's eye),
- 1 tsp Coriander Seeds
- 1 tsp Garam Masala
Toss all dried spices except Garam Masala over high heat in a small saucepan until just fragrant, 30-60 seconds. Transfer everything (including Garam Masala) to a spice blender or mortar and pestle and grind to a find powder.
Put a 2 quart saucepan over high heat and bring about 5 cups of water to a boil.
Drop tomatoes in, one at a time and roll around for about 45 seconds - 1 minutes. Pull out of the boiling water with a tongs, slip off of the peels and core. Set aside.
Roughly chop the onion, ginger, garlic, jalapenos and turmeric. In a large saucepan or high sided skillet heat a tbsp of cooking oil until glossy. Drop in the chopped veggies and saute until browned. Remove from heat and place in a blender with remaining base ingredients and skinned tomatoes. Process until smooth and creamy.
Add another tbsp of oil into the same large saucepan and heat to glistening. Pour in the lentils. Stir around until just beginning to brown. Pour in the base and dry spice and stir thoroughly. Cook over medium low heat until lentils are cooked through and Dal is thick and creamy. 25 - 35 minutes.
Scoop out about 1/2 cup of Dal and place in a blender with 1/4 - 1/2 cup of water (depending on consistency you would like) Process until creamy and smooth and then stir back into Dal.
Bring Dal back to high heat and serve warm.