Red Lentil Daal with Peas
When I was in college I made extra cash by helping an Indian family once a week with their cooking. On Sunday mornings I would go to their apartment and prep all the meats and vegetables that would be cooked that week, as well as making the curry bases for the different dishes. They weren’t a rich family by any means, but they valued home cooking and were willing to pay me $40 for two hours of my time so that they could make that a reality in their home. As a college student, it was nice to spend time with a family once a week – as I chopped, their four year old son would run around in circles and constantly try to steal uncooked meat off my cutting boards.
Daal was a staple in their diet, and soon became a frequent visitor in my lunchbox as well. It’s easy to make, and easy to fix if something goes awry, the flavor is incredibly expansive and it’s really good for you. For vegetarians and vegans it’s a great way to get healthy protein. When I microwave this in the office, my Indian coworker inevitably saunters over with a big grin and says he smells his childhood.
This dish is easily made vegan by replacing the butter with olive oil.
Putting the spices into the hot butter or oil before adding the onions makes an infused oil, a handy technique I picked up in Indian cooking, which has proved useful in all sorts of cuisines.
Serves 6 as a main dish
1.5 c. red lentils
3 c. stock
1 onion chopped
1.5 cups frozen peas
2 tbs butter or olive oil
½ can coconut milk
2 tsp salt
2 tsp tumeric
heaping ½ tsp chili paste (more if you want it spicy)
2 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp cumin seeds
Rinse and soak the lentils for twenty minutes, while setting out the rest of your ingredients.
Boil stock and add the lentils, half of the turmeric, half of the curry powder and all of the chili paste. Return to a boil, then lower to a simmer, cook uncovered until the lentils are soft, about 5 to 10 minutes.
While the lentils are cooking, heat the oil/butter in a fry pan over medium. When hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds as well as the remaining turmeric and curry powder. When the mustard seeds pop, lower the heat, add the onions and cook until caramelized.
When the lentils are soft, stir in the peas, caramelized onions, salt and coconut milk. Heat on low until the entire mixture is hot. If you want a thicker daal, continue cooking on low until you reach your desired consistency.
Serve over your choice of rice and garnish with cilantro, saffron infused yogurt, or nothing at all.