Fragrant, spicy, healthy and totally inexpensive lentil dal is so good, and so easy to make.
I love lentils. There, i’ve said it. Cooked up with some moong dal (split mung beans) and spices, lentil dal is an easy meal which my whole family loves. It’s great served soup style with some roti or paratha (keep some in the freezer), perfect on a bed of rice curry-style, and our favourite totally non-traditional way would have to be over potato mash with some steamed greens alongside. So versatile.
The red lentils almost totally break down when making dal, so I like to include moong dal too as they retain a bit more texture. From a nutrition perspective they’re high in protein, fibre and a range of vitamins and minerals. Using split, rather than whole beans means they cook more quickly. Good stuff.
Red lentils cost $4.50/kg at my local Bin Inn. I’m not sure how many people a kilo would feed, but let’s just say a lot. Moong dal are only slightly more at $5.90/kg. I love this! How great is it to be able to feed your family a high protein meal with plenty of leftovers, for just a few dollars?
And I am totally in dollar saving mode this week in the lead up to The Food Show in Auckland. This annual extravaganza of food and wine is something I look forward to all year, and this year no less than usual. Even on the years that I’ve set a strict budget, i’ve still come away with more than I could carry (and managed to justify spending far more than I intended to, oops). So this week the grocery money is largely being reserved for Saturday, and I’ll be getting creative with what’s already in the cupboards.
Aside from the joy (or shall I say the gleeful, childish excitement) of tasting so much locally produced food and wine, I really enjoy seeing how the food trends develop and wane over the years. Whole and raw foods, ‘alternative’ diets and clean eating really made their mark last year (about time), and I vividly remember the year there was what felt like 100 boutique olive oil stands. I’ll report back next week on this year’s highlights.
If you’re not usually much of a lentil-lover, give this recipe a go and be pleasantly surprised. The spices are more fragrant than spicy (add more chilli if you like it hot), and the flavours only improve with time so you’ll have lovely leftovers too. Dal also freezes well, so it’s worth making a big pot.
- 2 tbsp oil of your choice, I used coconut
- 2 onions, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, crushed
- Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated
- 1 tbsp turmeric
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp chilli flakes
- 6 cardamom pods
- 1 cup red lentils
- 1 cup moong dal, split mung beans
- 1 tsp salt
- 1 can chopped tomatoes, drained of excess liquid
- 2 cups chopped or baby spinach, approximate
- Heat oil in a deep saucepan. Add onions, garlic and ginger and cook until beginning to soften.
- Add remaining spices and stir until fragrant.
- Add lentils, moong dal and 8 cups of water to begin with. Bring to a simmer and cook for 45 minutes to an hour, stirring occasionally. The lentils and moong dal soak up a lot of water as they cook, so keep an eye on the pot every 10 minutes or so and add extra water if needed. I used 10 cups in the end.
- Once cooked the lentils will have virtually disappeared and the moong dal will be soft but have some remaining texture. The consistency can be quite soupy, or a bit thicker if you want to serve it on rice (just add a bit less water).
- I then go through a tedious/meditative process of stirring through and picking out the cardamom pods and cloves so that no one bites into one, which you can enjoy doing too - or just relax and wait until one pops up in your spoon later.
- Add salt, chopped tomatoes and spinach. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Garnish with extra chilli flakes or chopped fresh chilli, coriander and a wedge of lemon or lime for squeezing, if you like.