Dal is a staple of Indian cuisine. It is a simple stew of spiced lentils. There are many variations by region and even from family to family.
Dal Fry is what we see most often in a restaurant. Dal Dhokli is a one pot meal traditional in Gujarati. Dal Bati is a Rajasthani dish. There are countless others, with different seasonings and added ingredients.
This recipe is my favorite version of an Indian staple. It is vegetarian. It is gluten-free. It is a highly anti-inflammatory food, especially because of the turmeric and other spices. Lentils are very nutritious legumes and the added vegetables make it even better for whole food health.
Lentils cook fast and do not need to be soaked. I usually plan for 5-10 minutes to prepare the vegetables. Add 5 minutes to saute them with the butter. Then 45 minutes to finish after adding the water or broth. This last period is when I make a cup of tea and check my e-mail or do other chores.
This dish is traditionally made with red or yellow lentils, which cook even more quickly. I prefer the more substantial green lentils. They still get very soft but don’t disappear into a mush like red lentils.
2 Tablespoons grass-fed butter 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
1/4 cup diced carrot 1/4 cup diced green bell pepper
1/4 cup diced celery stalk 1/4 cup diced red onion
2 Tablespoons minced garlic 2 Tablespoons minced fresh turmeric root
1 Tablespoon minced fresh ginger root 1 teaspoon Garam Masala spice blend
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 1/2 teaspoon whole coriander seeds
1/2 teaspoon whole brown mustard seeds 1/2 teaspoon red chile powder or flakes
1/2 teaspoon sea salt 1 1/4 cup diced red tomato(2 small)
1 1/4 cup green lentils 2 3/4 cups water or vegetable broth
Preparing the dal
1. Place the butter in a 1-2 quart pan with a heavy bottom over medium heat.
2. Add all of the vegetables and seasonings except the salt and tomato.
3. Stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until the spices become very aromatic.
4. Add the tomato and stir constantly for another minute.
5. Add the lentils to the pan and stir constantly for 2-3 minutes until thoroughly heated through.
6. Add the water or broth and raise to high heat.
7. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.
8. Cook until the lentils are quite soft. Add extra water or broth if needed.
9. Add sea salt to taste and the dal is ready to eat.
Notes on this dal recipe
Make this recipe once and then start adjusting the seasonings to your taste. I like a lot of turmeric and chile for the anti-inflammatory kick they give to the dal. I also like this dish on the spicy end of the spectrum. If you prefer a milder version, simply cut back on the turmeric, chile, mustard seed and black pepper until the flavor suits you.
I use extra vegetables in everything to add variety to my healthy whole food diet. This recipe can easily be made with only a little onion and garlic. Other vegetables like potatoes, radishes and squash can also be used. Cut the vegetables to whatever size you like.
Dal can be a smooth soup consistency or a chunkier and thicker stew. Just adjust the amount of liquid and the cooking time. For a smoother dish try using red lentils and cutting the vegetables very small.