Busy weekday meals need not be bland nor boring. Enter the mighty lentil and some of the fruits of the late summer harvest.
Ordering in or dining out certainly has an appeal at times, but oftentimes, that’s a costly and not so satisfactory solution. May I suggest instead this deceptively quick and easy mixed lentil curry with Indian spicing that takes advantage of vibrant local tomatoes and other staples from your pantry.
The creamy texture of the dal is an ideal base for rich and pungent spices and audacious hot chilies. In fact, this dish is so delightful and flavorful, it deserves a spot on any table with an Indian theme, no matter the occasion or lack thereof.
Simplicity in this instance steals the show, especially when served with a [highlight]Corn and Green Pea Curry[/highlight] and [highlight]Cracked Black Pepper Rice[/highlight]. Pull up a chair and nourish your mind and body.
Indian Mixed Lentil Dal
- 3/4 cup red lentils
- 1/3 cup split mung (moong) dal
- 2 1/2 cups water + more as needed
- 2 tablespoons sesame or coconut oil
- 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 1/2 inch piece fresh ginger, finely chopped
- 2 to 3 fresh red or cayenne chilies, seeded and finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon turmeric
- 1/2 teaspoon amchoor powder (optional)
- pinch or two of asafetida (optional)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or to taste
- 3 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
- handful of fresh parsley or cilantro, trimmed and finely chopped
Rinse the red lentils and mung dal well in a strainer under warm water. Transfer to a medium saucepan and add 2 1/2 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until the dal is soft and just begins to break apart. Add a little more water if the mixture becomes too dry.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a small skillet over medium heat. When hot, toss in the mustard and cumin seeds and stir for 30 to 60 seconds or until the mustard seeds turn grey and begin to splutter and pop. Immediately add the ginger and chilies to the pan and stir for another minute. Stir in the coriander, ground cumin, turmeric, amchoor if using, asafetida if using and salt. Stir for 30 to 60 seconds and then add the tomato to the pan. Simmer over medium heat, uncovered, for another 10 minutes or so, until the mixture begins to thicken.
Pour the tomato sauce into the dal and simmer over medium heat for another 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Add more liquid if you want a soupier dal.
Stir in the garam masala near the end of the cooking time along with some of the chopped parsley or cilantro. Remove from heat, cover. and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving. Garnish with the remaining chopped herbs.
Yields 4 servings
Notes: Mung dal can be found at any Indian grocery store and usually Asian food stops too. If you can’t find them or don’t have them on hand, use more red lentils instead or include some other treasured dals you may have lingering in your pantry. I didn’t use onion in this dish, but if desired, add a finely chopped small onion to the pan before adding the ginger and chilies and fry for a few minutes until softened.