Red Lentil Dal
You may recall from my Tom Yam Soup with Shrimp post that this past summer I took a couple months off to backpack around India, Vietnam, Thailand, and Singapore. As you can imagine, it was an amazing experience that I miss dearly. Thankfully I have a million photographs (okay, 3,000) and an extensive journal to help me remember it all. Even better, I have the love of food to bring it all back.
Last weekend my friend, Alison, and I spent an afternoon walking around Jackson Heights in Queens here in New York. This is an area rich in Indian shops and restaurants. You will hear more about that in a later post, but I bring it up because it was the closest to feeling like I was back in India since my trip. Eating all the great food, seeing all the Hindi newspapers for sale, and smelling all the spices at the market brought it all back.
That evening I came home and even after spending an entire afternoon eating Indian food, I needed more and made a curry for dinner. That wasn’t enough. Again last night I had to make more. I needed to smell the curry, feel the warmth, and go back to India for an evening.
A ways back Brian from The Blue Hour had mentioned a dal that he had made and highly recommended. Dal, for those of you who do not know, is a lentil dish that’s creamy and warm mixed with subtle seasonings. It is a lovely dish to curl up on the couch with to enjoy on a chilly evening.
The recipe is actually a creation of Nigella Lawson’s, a British cook, so it may not be the most authentic (especially with the sweet potato). However, I loved it and it did take me back to India. I ate it with some roti that I picked up in Jackson Heights last week and sat back and remembered all the parts of my trip that I loved. I was quite content.
So if you would like to make a trip to India one evening at home, here is the recipe as provided by the New York Times. It serves 4-6 people.
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 1/2 cups (10 ounces, about 1 medium) finely diced sweet potato
- 1 tablespoon minced ginger
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 Thai or bird’s-eye red chili
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 2 teaspoons ground cumin
- 2 teaspoons turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1 cup canned chopped tomatoes
- 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro
- In a large saucepan over medium-low heat, heat oil, and sauté onion until softened.
- Add sweet potato, and sauté for about 5 minutes.
- Add minced ginger and garlic; stir, and reduce heat to low.
- Finely dice chili, keeping seeds if you wish to add more heat. Add chili, lentils, coriander, cumin, turmeric and ground ginger to pan. Stir until lentils are well coated with oil.
- Add tomatoes and 4 cups water. Raise heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat until mixture is at a fast simmer. Cook uncovered until lentils and potatoes are soft, stirring occasionally, about 25 minutes.
- Season to taste with salt, and continue to simmer until mixture has thickened, about 10 minutes.
- Whisk dal to amalgamate lentils and sweet potatoes. If dal is too soupy, increase heat and cook for a little longer.
- To serve, place dal in a serving bowl and sprinkle with chopped cilantro. Serve hot.