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Red Lentil Daal with Peas

June 3, 2011

daal with peas over riceWhen 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.

lentils and spices set out for daal

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. 

infusing butter with spices


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.



9 Comments leave one →
  1. June 3, 2011 10:40 am

    That looks amazing! I can’t wait to try it!

  2. Sarah permalink
    June 3, 2011 10:35 pm

    Thanks! I just made this for dinner and it’s super easy and extremely tasty! I will definitely make it again. My only recommendation to others is to start with less salt and add it to taste. It came out really salty (I guess I should have known that when the recipe called for 2 tsp of salt!)

  3. Debbie permalink
    June 4, 2011 9:12 am

    This looks wonderful. I have one question though. When it says to boil the water and add the lentils, did you mean boil the 3 cups stock and add the lentils?

  4. June 4, 2011 9:42 am

    Right you are! Thanks for catching that error Debbie! We’ve updated the recipe and it should be congruous now.

    Sarah – Indian cooking can be very salty, especially for those not used to it. The saltiness of your stock will also affect the taste here, so if you’re using a store bought stock with lots of salt already added, we would recommend cutting back on those teaspoons. For future reference, we’ve made this recipe with much less salt and have still gotten rave reviews!

  5. Jindi's Cottage permalink
    June 25, 2011 7:55 pm

    Hi. This looks and sounds absolutely yummy but I’ve just a question before giving it a whirl…what size is your can of coconut milk? I am not in the USA so our can sizes may not match yours. Thanks 🙂

    • June 25, 2011 9:57 pm

      The coconut milk we use comes in 14 ounce (400 mL) cans. Enjoy and let us know how it turns out!

      • Jindi's Cottage permalink
        June 25, 2011 10:24 pm

        Thanks Freds…I certainly will (enjoy and let you know!)…


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