April 07, 2020
At its core, dal is a simple lentil stew with seasonings. Dal chawal (lentils and rice) is a hearty comfort meal eaten in all homes in India, from palaces to the slums. Given that there are dozens of varieties of lentils from split pea to channa to mung, there are also hundreds of variations of dal, based on regions, seasonality and of course personal preferences. In the winter times, when fresh tomatoes are not flavorful, one can resort to sun dried tomatoes to provide a contrasting acidic note for dal.
3/4 cup channa dal
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon sea salt
4 to 5 sun dried tomatoes, chopped into 1/2-inch pieces
2 tablespoons grated ginger
1 serrano pepper, sliced thin
3 to 4 tablespoons ghee
3 to 4 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
Juice of 1 lemon
Chopped herbs for garnish
Serves 2 to 4
Rinse the channa dal lentils 3 to 4 times then soak for 2 to 3 hours. The lentils should double in size. Drain the water, add 3 cups of fresh water, and bring the lentils to a boil. Some foam may rise to the top — be sure to discard this using a skimmer.
Add turmeric and salt, lower the heat, cover the stockpot with a tight fitting lid and simmer the lentils for 1 to 1 1/2hours or until they are soft and almost dissolved. Time of cooking depends on the freshness of the lentils. Add more water through the cooking process if they appear dry.
Add the chopped sun dried tomatoes, ginger, and serrano pepper and continue cooking the dal. By now, it should appear soft and almost creamy.
Heat the ghee and when it is shy of smoking, add the sliced garlic and lower the heat. As soon as it turns golden, add the cumin seeds and let them pop and sizzle. Within 2 to 3 seconds, turn the heat off and stir this mixture into the dal. Squeeze the lemon juice and top with herbs.
This dal can be made with other lentils — the cooking time will vary on the size of the lentils.
1 cup chopped fresh tomatoes may be substituted for dry.
An often forgotten fact, whether boiling lentils or beans is the preparation before — the soaking and the skimming. Soaking not only softens them but also removes some of the residue often attached to beans. And skimming the foam residue that rises when the beans or lentils first start to cook must be discarded to avoid indigestion afterwards.
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