Deliciously tempered split pea soup, a great source of protein for vegetarians, and a humble dish that is quite gentle on your wallet. Dal is normally served with steamed basmati rice or chapatti (roti), and plain yogurt, raita or a dollop of sour cream on the side.
Dal is a term used in the Indian subcontinent for dried split lentils, peas and beans. Soups prepared from these pulses are also referred to as Dal. Dal is an important staple food of India, Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. Lentil dishes have been known to Indians since very early times, in fact archaeological evidence indicates that the Indian dal made its first appearance in the Indus Valley Civilization, where lentils – of all kinds – were a staple food.
There are a lot of different types of Dal dishes in India. The recipe I will share with you today can be used for any types of split peas or lentils, the only thing that would vary is the time it needs to cook. The very small lentils such as Toor Dal and Masoor Dal usually need only between 15 to 30 minutes cooking before they are tender. The larger lentils such as Chana Dal usually need 45 minutes to one hour. Most Dal recipes have onion in it, but some don't. Personally I think the Dal is just as tasty without the onion.
The small types of lentils I normally use are either Masoor Dal (small orange lentils) or the Toor Dal (Split Pigeon Peas, small yellow). Masoor Dal are a good source of protein, they have essential amino acids, potassium, iron, fiber and vitamin B1. They also helps to lower cholesterol and control sugar levels.Toor dal is one of the most used ingredients in an Indian kitchen and it tastes like a more flavorful version of the yellow split pea. It contains iron, folic acid, magnesium, calcium, Vitamin B and potassium.
The larger yellow split peas are called Chana Dal (Split Chickpeas). Chana dal has a sweet, earthy, nutty flavor and is high in fiber and helps to lower cholesterol. It also has a very low hypoglycemic index, which is important for those with diabetes. Chana dal is a helpful source of zinc, folate, calcium and protein. It is low in fat and most of it is polyunsaturated.
There are a million Dal recipes out there as each region, even each family has their own recipe. This is a simple but tasty Dal recipe that you can use for any type of Dal. To know when your Dal is cooked, squeeze one between your fingers to check if it is tender.
This recipe serves 4-6 people. Here is how you make it:
1. Soak 1 ¼ cup lentils (yellow split pleas or a combination of different lentils) for one hour in cold water (or 30 minutes in boiling hot water). I usually put the lentils to soak in the morning before work, and they will be ready to use when I cook dinner. Discard the soaking water before cooking.
2. Put the lentils in a large pot and add 4 cups of water, 1 1/2 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. turmeric and 1/4 tsp. hing (optional). Bring to a boil on high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about 15-30 minutes for Toor Dal and Masoor Dal or 45 minutes to 1 hour for Chana Dal (Cook until the lentils are tender. Squeeze one lentil between your thumb and your finger to see if it is soft).
3. Meanwhile chop the onion, tomatoes, chilies and crush the garlic and ginger into a paste. Get the rest of the spices out of the cupboard and lined up ready for use (see Ingredients list below).
3. Heat the ghee in a pan on medium heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds and sautee for a minute until fragrant.
4. Add the ginger, garlic and chill and fry for one more minute.
5. Add the chopped onions and fry until translucant.
6. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry or about 5 minutes more, until the oil starts to separate. Turn off the heat and add 1 tsp. ground coriander and 1 tsp. Garam Masala.
7. Once the lentils are tender, add the tomato spice mix to the lentils and give it a stir. Let is simmer for about five minutes for the flavors to merge. Add more water if you want it soupier. It really dries up at the end with only 4 and even with 5 cups of water. Add the lemon juice and fresh coriander leaves just before serving. Serve with steamed rice, chapattis or nan bread. It also tastes great with sour cream, Greek yoghurt or raita.
1 ¼ cup lentils (yellow split pleas or a combination of different lentils)
4 cups water + plus more at the end if it thickens too much
¼ tsp. Asafoedita (Hing) (optional)
1/2 tsp. Turmeric
1 1/2 to 2 tsp. salt (depending on how much water you end up using.)
3 tbsp. ghee or vegetable oil, or 1 tbsp. oil, 2 tbsp. butter (if you want to make it vegan use only oil)
1 tsp. black mustard seeds (optional)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 onion, finely chopped (any color, I prefer white onion as it is less sweet)
3 cloves garlic, crushed or minced
½ inch piece of fresh ginger, grated or crushed
1 green chili pepper or jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
2 dried red chilies (left whole)
1 tsp. ground coriander
1-2 very ripe tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp. Garam Masala
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
¼ cup chopped fresh coriander
Steamed basmati rice to serve
1. Soak the lentils for one hour in cold water. Bring the lentils, water, turmeric, salt and hing to a boil on high heat. Immediately reduce the heat to medium low as it has a tendency to boil over. Cook until lentils are tender (time depends on what kind of lentils - you should be able to easily smash one between two fingers when tender). Small lentils can take 15-30 minutes and large lentils can take 45 minutes to 1 hour.
2. Heat the ghee/butter/or oil in a frying pan over medium high heat and add the cumin and mustard seeds. Fry for one minute. Add the ginger, garlic, and chillies and fry for one more minute. Add the onion and fry until lightly browned. Add the tomatoes and fry until the oil starts to separate. Let it sit in the pan on low and simmer until the lentils are done. Turn off the heat and add ground coriander and garam masala.
3. Mix the onion/tomato mix into the dal and let it simmer for about five minutes for the flavors to merge. It might thicken a lot at the end, so if you like it more soupy just add more water. When you are happy with the amount of liquid taste to see if more salt is needed. Add the Garam Masala, Lemon Juice and Fresh Coriander just before serving. Serve with Basmati rice and Sour Cream or Raita.