Friday, June 15, 2012

Indian Daal

Blog's Category: International, My Staple Food

Since discovering "Red Lentils Soup" on Epicurious, I cook it on a regular basis because my son adore it. I realized that this soup is very basic nevertheless great variation of Indian daals.  Original Epicurious's recipe calls for red lentils (or mansoor dal) although any other legumes will work. In the recipe below I used chana dal. The differences are - chana dal cooks much longer than red lentils and do not break up completely as red lentils during cooking process. That is why I like red lentils more, but since I had no other than chana dal on my shelves, it left me no choice but cook with chana dal. Result was not disappointing, daal has come out still very tasty as many times before. In fact, for me this recipe is "fool proof" as consistently turns out great for me. It may become your household staple food, this dish deserves to be the one, just try!

- Use any kind of dal or combinations of it: red lentils (mansoor dal), chana dal, regular your local store's brown lentils and so on. Just keep in mind that cooking time is vary so just taste them during cooking, when they very soft or almost disintegrated in a liquid (depending on type of legumes) - it's done.

- I do not like to use too many spices in one dish, those few bold ones in a recipe below are enough to create rich aroma and great taste. But please feel free to add any kind of your favorite carry powder, or turmeric, or coriander, or anything else to your liking. Although I would not guarantee that final result will be great ;)

- Use parsley instead of cilantro - it still will be great.

- Sometimes I add diced carrot to the soup, it won't change taste much but will add additional nutrition point to it.

- If you like your daal spicy, add couple teaspoons of red chili powder or any other "spicy spice".

Indian Daal
Serves about 6

3 tbs olive oil (or ghee)
1-2 large onions, diced 
2 tsp ground cumin
8 garlic cloves, grated or minced
2 bay leaves
2 c masoor dal (or other lentils such as chana dal (yellow split pea), brown, or french lentils)
2 tsp dry thyme (or fresh), optional
2/3 tsp salt
4 cubes of chicken broth (0.5" x 0.5"))
7 c water
fresh cilantro, finely chopped

- In a large pot, cook onions in an olive oil until soft and translucent.
- Add cumin, garlic, bay leaves and cook for one more minute.
- Add water, chicken broth, salt, thyme and chana dal and bring to a boil. Then turn heat down to simmering point, cover pot with a lid ajar and cook for about 1 hour. If using chana dal (yellow split pea), you may need to cook it much longer, about 2 hours.
- Stir daal occasionaly and taste lentils for softness.
- Add water if needed to get your desired consistency.
- Your daal is ready when chana dal is very soft and falling apart. As an option, you can take immersion blender and make couple rotations here and there to make consistency a bit smoother.
- Add parsley and turn off the head, it's done!
- Enjoy your daal served over the rice, or on its own, with bread or crackers on a side.

Some Tips

- Some recipe instruct to soak dal first (especially chana dal), before using it in recipe. I do not do this - I prefer to cook it a little longer than to bother myself with additional steps. Sorry, my "simplification" bug is showing up here again :)

-Traditionally, daal has to be thick but I like to make it a bit thinner, so usually I add a little bit more water during a cooking. 

- When I use red (masoor) lentils for daal, I do not use blender as red lentils tend to break up completely during cooking. Red lentils are my favorite to make dal - they cook fast and has such a smooth and silky texture when cooked that no use of immersion blender is needed.

- Sometimes, along with onion I put some finely chopped carrots or pell pepper, or both, purely for added nutrition, as dal is perfect without this addition.


While you can use practically any type of lentils for your dahl, Masoor Dal is a type I like to use. The reason for this is - it is a dal that cooks fast and falls apart pretty quickly. I buy it usually at Indian groceries, but you can find it now at some regular grocery stores. Look for a bright orange lentils in a plastic bags. Cooked these lentils lose their bright orange color becoming light beige-yellow.

I like to use microplane to grate garlic. You can mince with a knife or use garlic press.

Checking- not quite done yet, chana dal is still a little tough.

When daal is really soft, and I mean "really soft" - couple hits of blender button and its done.

Soft, fragrant and flavorful, gliding easily down the throat and warming up your "insides" - good stuff this Indian Daal!

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