There’s something deeply comforting about dal. It’s wholesome, it’s satisfying, it’s like a hug in a bowl.
Dal, or stewed lentils, is so ingrained in the Pakistani and Indian culture that you’d be hard-pressed to find a pantry in the Indian Subcontinent without some variety of it. Masoor dal, or red split lentils (also called pink lentils), is my go-to dal. Not only is it quick and simple to prepare, but it’s one of the most delicious dals and so versatile.
I couldn’t praise its nutritional value enough. Dal is packed with protein, fiber, calcium, iron, folate, and magnesium among other nutrients. This means it’s perfect for vegetarians, vegans, babies, pregnant women, Bob down the street, vampires, unicorns, you name it.
Here are 3 tips to nail #basic dal:
- If you’re cooking it in a regular pot (instead of a pressure cooker), remove the foam that rises to the top. Otherwise, the dal might become bitter.
- Use the right amount of water to make sure that it’s cooked, but not overcooked and mushy. I’ve specified how much water to use in the recipe.
- Be generous with the salt. If your dal tastes bland, it likely needs a sprinkle of salt.
#Basic Masoor Dal | Red Lentil Curry
- 1 cup masoor dal or red lentils
- 3 1/4 cups water or 2 cups for pressure cooking
- 1/4 cup canola grapeseed or other neutral oil
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion finely chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves crushed
- 3/4 inch piece ginger crushed
- 2 small tomatoes chopped
- 1 green chili chopped or sliced (chopped for more heat, sliced for less)
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/4 tsp red chilli powder or 1/8 tsp cayenne or more to taste
- 1 1/8 tsp salt or more to taste
- 1 tsp kasuri methi or dry fenugreek leaves optional
- 1 tbsp ghee not suitable for vegans
- 1-2 tbsp chopped cilantro
- 1 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1/4 tsp garam masala optional
Place lentils in a medium-sized bowl and fill with water. Use your hand to swirl the dal around until the water becomes murky. Tip the bowl to take out the excess water and repeat until the water runs clear. Remove any debris and strain the excess water.
2 Ways to Cook
In a large pot, add dal and 3 1/4 cups of water. Bring this to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cover, leaving the lid slightly open. Cook the dal for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally. Use a slotted spoon to remove the white scum that rises to the top of the pan.
Pressure cook the masoor dal with 2 cups water for 2-3 minutes or until well cooked and slightly mushy. Set aside.
For the tadka (or tempering)
In another large pan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Once hot, add the cumin seeds and sauté for about 15 seconds. Add the onions and sauté until slightly golden, about 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to sauté until the raw smell disappears, about 10-15 seconds. Add the tomatoes, green chilli, and dry spice powders (red chilli, turmeric, cumin, coriander) except the garam masala. Cook until soft and you see the oil leaving the sides, about 3 minutes.
Stir the cooked dal into the tadka and add 2 cups of water. Stir well and bring to a simmer.
Lower the heat and add the salt. Simmer this dal, stirring often, for at least 5 minutes or until you achieve the desired consistency.
Add in the ghee. Rub the fenugreek leaves, if using, between your hands to crush them a little and add this to the dal.
Turn off the heat. Add lemon juice, chopped cilantro, and garam masala, if using. Give it a stir.
Serve dal hot with rice, roti, naan or anything else your heart desires. I like to serve it with some sliced onions, carrots or cucumber on the side.