Indian Dal (Lentil Soup)

Over a week ago a friend of mine posted a picture on Instagram. It was of a beautiful bowl of Dal. Just looking at her bowl of lentils was enticing; I knew what I was making that weekend. So on Sunday afternoon I gathered my lentils, ginger, garlic, chili, onion, and spices. I simmered it all together on the stove until the lentils were tender, and our home smelt exotic. It was quite breezy out and this warm bowl of Dal with a refreshing Raita to accompany it was perfect. Not to mention its deep orange huge is extremely pretty to look at as it sits waiting for you to dig into it. Dal with Raita, Rice, and Lime on the side.

I really love a good lentil dish; I find it really hard to pass up. Same goes for Indian food- I adore it. This dish takes these two things plus a depth of flavor and spice that I crave after. It is also what makes me go after Indian food time and time again; I just feel I can never get enough of it! I have tried many variations of Dal over the years, but I always go back to the first recipe I tried on my own. It is from The Joy of Cooking that I have adapted a bit over time to get this recipe to where there is heat from the chili, depth to the spices, richness in its texture, and a freshness of herbs in its finished taste combined into a pure pleasurable occurrence. I promise you once you taste it for yourself you will keep helping yourself to more…as I did with the leftovers all this week.

I do understand that a spicy dish, for example one with chili and ginger may intimidate some into trying this recipe. But be assured that you can adapt it to your own liking. Don’t skimp out on the ingredients but make it your own. For example, use less ginger and only add chili to sprinkle in at the end to your own liking. In experience; you can always add spices and herbs to build up to a flavor profile that pleases you. It is hard to remove it as heat and the intensity of flavor that does build as it simmered together over time. Do not let the ingredients intimidate you, but bring it to where you will enjoy it. I have thanked my friend for her picture and inspiration for our dinner. I just hope that I can do the same here as you look at this beautiful Dal. Trust me on this one, smelling the aroma and enjoying this dish will make you feel like you are someplace extraordinary.

Indian Dal with Rice and Raita

Indian Dal (serves 6)

1 cup of red lentils

3 cups of water (plus more if needed)

1 cup of onion, chopped small

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 ½ tbsp of fresh ginger, minced

½ tsp of turmeric (adds a bit more color and flavor to this dish)

1 tsp of curry powder mix (South Indian Curry if you have available)

1 tsp of sea salt

1 large serrano or jalapeno, chopped small

2 tomatoes, chopped small (canned is fine)

Fresh cilantro leaves, for garnish

Lime wedges, for garnish

Cooked long grain rice, to serve with (**I usually use basmati rice for this, but I was out when I made this, so I subbed jasmine rice instead.)

First; in a 4 quart pot place your lentils, onion, ginger, garlic, turmeric, curry, and sea salt. Place the pot over medium heat, partially covered with a lid, and bring it to a simmer until the lentils have doubled in size and it appears to have thickened a bit – about 40 minutes.

Next; to the pot add your tomato, and chili. Let it simmer together about 10 – 15 more minutes. Your tomato will begin to break down and the contents of the pot will thicken up a bit more. At this time you will want to taste it and adjust your seasoning a bit. Also, it is at this point that you can add a bit more water to it all if you feel it is too thick.

Then, remove from heat and puree in batches. You can puree the whole pot if you would like a smooth soup, but if your can also only puree half of it if you would like a bit more texture to the overall dish. When finished pureeing return to the pot until ready to serve.

Finally, when ready to serve you can rewarm the Dal over low heat until warm and heated through. Serve with the rice, lime wedges, cilantro leaves, and the Raita (recipe to follow).

Raita (makes about 1 ½ cups)

¾ cup of cucumber, chopped small (English or Persian cucumbers work fine)

2 green onions, finely chopped (light green and white parts)

2 tbsp of chopped fresh cilantro

2 tsp of chopped fresh mint

½ - ¾ cup of plain Greek yogurt

Sea Salt to taste

First, in a small bowl combine all of the above and stir until well combined. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

Finally, when ready to serve give the mixture another stirring and taste to adjust the seasoning. Feel free to add more sea salt or a pinch of sugar if you feel it is needed and serve.