Sherbanu’s Red Lentil Dal

I’ve always thought that comfort food is some dish you remember from the past – probably sweet – that makes you feel cozy and cared for and maybe sleepy.

I’m Canadian, so I should be craving poutine or Nanaimo bars or ice cream sandwiches, but not dal! We never ate that when I was growing up. In fact, I don’t remember eating a lentil until I first ate Indian food, when I was well on in years… I was at least thirty (I’m trying to make up for the late start now).

But these days, when I need a bowl of something that’s calming, I make dal and relax. If I make some basmati rice and serve the dal over it, that’s even better.

This recipe is from Ismail Merchant’s Passionate Meals: The New Indian Cuisine for Fearless Cooks and Adventurous Eaters by Ismail Merchant.

Ismail Merchant? The film producer and director? Yes! Apparently, he liked to throw dinner parties and do the cooking too.

Here goes.

Get the red lentils into a pot.

Lentils.

Add the ginger and turmeric.

Ginger and turmeric.

Pour in a lot of water.

With water.

While the lentils are cooking, chop the tomato.

Chopped tomatoes.

After 15 minutes of cooking, add the tomato, ground red pepper and salt to the lentils.

Tomatoes and red pepper.

While the dal continues to cook, thinly slice the onion and garlic.

Getting the tarka started.

Cook the onion and garlic until tender (or in my case, until slightly crispy).

Slightly crispy.

Red Lentil Dal served on basmati rice.

Red Lentil Dal with basmati rice.

Sherbanu’s Red Lentil Dal
Sherbanu’s Masoor Dal

This dal is my older sister’s recipe. It is topped with a traditional tarka, which means something fried in oil. A tarka can be made with seeds, such as cumin, as well as a mixture of crisply fried onion and garlic.

Preparation time: 45 minutes
Serves 6 – 8

2 cups masoor dal (red lentils), picked over and rinsed
1 tablespoon peeled and chopped fresh ginger root
1/4 tsp. turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground red pepper (or chili powder)
1 tomato, quartered
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 small onion, sliced thin
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine

Combine the red lentils, ginger, turmeric and 6 cups of water in a pot and boil for 15 to 20 minutes.

Add the salt, red pepper and tomato. Cook for another 10 minutes and transfer to a serving dish.

Heat oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion and garlic until tender (making the tarka). Pour the tarka into the centre of the cooked dal just before serving.

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