When I was 13 I worked at an Indian food restaurant. I was too young to be working, but I did it anyhow and I was mostly paid in tips and free food. I realize this makes me sound like a mid 19th century orphan, but it was a pretty sweet gig. It fostered my love of Indian food at an age when most of my peers wouldn't touch the stuff and to this day, the smell of curry makes me salivate like mad.
A few nights ago, I was watching A Cook Abroad (thank you, Netflix) and one of the episodes is set in India. An hour of watching people make mouthwatering curry dishes had me itching to whip up something from my restaurant days. I decided the next day I'd whip up one of my old faves, dhal (or dal).
In it's simplest form, dhal is a thick lentil stew, but can also be made with peas or other types of beans. It's the consistency of oatmeal and is usually served over rice or with naan or chapati bread for scooping it up into your mouth, sans cutlery.
This recipe turned out SO well, that we've made it multiple times this week. Gretchen actually said: "This is the best food ever and it's all I ever need. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, all day."
Seven year olds don't tend to sugarcoat their culinary experiences, so I'm pretty jazzed about this.
This recipe is healthy, filling, and it's gaining an official night in the weekly food plan that I'm currently working on (and which I'll totally share soon once I've finalized all the finicky bits).
One little note before we dive in: fancier recipes will call for lentils/peas/beans in their dry form, but for this simple recipe, I'm using canned versions for a quicker cooking time.
Super Simple Dhal
- 1 can lentils + 1 can black beans (or just 2 cans lentils, which is what I'd usually use, but I was experimenting), strained/rinsed
- small onion, diced
- olive oil, 1 tbsp
- butter, 1 tbsp (or more, I just dollop a big heaping spoonful in)
- 1-2 cloves garlic, diced
- spices or curry paste (see note below!)
- pinch of salt
- plain Balkan yogourt (topping)
- cilantro (topping)
A note about the spices: I used about 2 tbsp of a mix that's equal parts cardamom, chili powder, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, curry power, ginger, mustard power, nutmeg, and turmeric. If you don't have all these hanging out in your spice rack, don't worry. A combination of coriander, curry powder, and turmeric is awesome too, or coriander, cumin, and curry powder. You can get really creative here. If you want a shortcut, pick up a bottle of curry paste from the grocery store! Patak's Balti Curry Paste works well here. ;)
- Heat your olive oil on medium-high, then add in your spices and stir until the fragrances make you drool, or for about 2 minutes.
- Add onions, cook til translucent, then add garlic.
- Next add your lentils (or whatever legume-ish thing you're using) and let the flavours hang out for about 3 minutes.
- Add enough water to almost cover the lentils, but not completely.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer at about medium for 20-30 minutes or until it's the consistency of oatmeal and most of the water has been soaked into the lentils. #curryporridge
- Add butter and salt to taste.
- Serve your dhal concoction over rice, or with naan.
Sometimes I'll serve it over rice AND we'll scoop it all up with naan because it's SO GOOD. We also add a big dollop of plain balkan yogourt and a handful of cilantro because ALL THE FLAVOURS.
We usually have a big bag of basmati rice and we cook it in the rice cooker because if I try to cook it on the stove I WILL 100% burn it and ruin the pot. I've proven this time and time again, so I take 2 cups of basmati rice, rinsed under cold water twice, then into the rice cooker with 3 cups of water. A little salt + a little butter, and you're good to go. Click the fancy button and wait for it to be done. (I love food that cooks itself.)
I should also add that you can easily double this recipe if you want to have enough for leftovers. It's even more awesome the next day after the flavours mingle all night. To heat up your leftovers, cover your rice with the dhal before popping it in the microwave and your rice won't dry out and get really hard. Or you can heat your dhal in a pot on the stove.
I hope you'll give this a try and let me know what you think. Happy eatin'!