Lentils (Dal) Recipes – An Important Part of Indian Cuisine

Lentil recipes

Lentils are to India as meatloaf is to America. Lentils or pulses have an important role in Indian cuisine and are an important part of daily meals. The main course item is Daal made of different kinds of lentils. Any Indian meal, be it lunch or dinner, is considered incomplete without daal. These lentils are the quintessential comfort food for every household in India.  These is a wide variety of Lentils available in India. The color varies from yellow, green, brown, orange  and red to deep black, these tiny disc-shaped members of the legume family are eaten in some form at least twice a day in any self-respecting Indian household.

India is one of the biggest producer as well as consumer of lentils. These lentils have a high nutritional value, which is very healthy for all age groups. The lentils include some essential proteins like amino acids isoleucine and lysine and sprouted lentils contain sufficient levels of all essential amino acids, including methionine and cystine. They also contain nutrients, fiber, complex carbohydrates, and folic acid. It is a low calorie, low fat and cholesterol free food.

The Diet experts say, “One cup of cooked lentils provides 90% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA). Lentils provide more folic acid than any other unfortified food. Eating lentils with foods rich in Vitamin C, such as tomatoes, green peppers, broccoli, and citrus fruits or juices, helps the body absorb iron more efficiently.”

In India, each region has its own lentil recipes. At some places, these lentils are cooked with garlic and ginger, in addition to the staple spices of turmeric, cumin and coriander and on the other hand, there are places where these lentils are simply boiled with ample amount of water and later putting the hing and cumin’s tadka on top of it before serving, this one is my favorite. Dals can range from spicy-sweet to scorching hot, soup like or like creamed thick soup or dry like a pilaf.

Palak Dal (Spinach Dal) Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup moong daal – moong/ split yellow lentils (see link below for picture)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1″ piece of ginger grated
  • 1 small bunch spinach, washed and chopped roughly (approximately 1/2 lb or 250 gms)
  • 3 tbsps melted ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 dry red chilli broken into half
  • 5 cloves garlic chopped very fine
  • A pinch of asafetida
  • Salt to taste
  • Half a lime/ lemon

Preparation:

  • Wash the moong daal thoroughly under running water. Soak in warm water for 20 minutes.
  • Put the daal into a deep pan and add water (level should be 2 finger digits over the top of the daal). Set up to boil, on medium heat.
  • Add the turmeric powder and ginger now and stir. Cook till the daal is soft enough to mash. Add more water as you cook, if required, to keep the consistency similar to that of a thick soup.
  • When the daal is cooked, add the spinach, season with salt to taste, stir and reduce the heat to minimum.
  • In another small pan, heat the ghee till hot and add the cumin seeds. Fry till sizzling stops and then add the dry red chilli, chopped garlic and asafetida. Fry till garlic turns pale golden in color. Now carefully add this ghee-spice mixture (called tadka in Hindi), to the cooked, simmering daal. It will sizzle and might splash so be careful!
  • Put the Palak Ki Daal into a serving dish, garnish with a squeeze of lime/lemon and serve.

Dal Tadka Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Toor or Tuvar Daal
  • 1 large tomato cut into cubes
  • 1 tsp ginger paste
  • 1 tsp garlic paste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tbsp vegetable/ sunflower/ canola cooking oil
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 3 tbsps melted ghee (clarified butter)
  • 1 tsp Paanch Phoran (see recipe below)
  • 10 curry leaves
  • 2 slit green chillies (optional but preferred)
  • 1/2 tsp asafetida powder

Preparation:

  • Thoroughly wash the Toor/ Tuvar Daal and put into a pressure cooker. Add 2 cups of water to it. Now add the chopped tomato, ginger, garlic pastes, salt to taste, 1 tbsp of cooking oil and turmeric powder to it. Stir well.
  • Cover the pressure cooker and set on the stove at a high flame. After the first ‘whistle’/ pressure release, reduce the flame to simmer and cook for 2 more ‘whistles’/ pressure releases. Turn off the fire and release the pressure from the cooker. Now open the pressure cooker and stir the boiled lentils well to blend into a smooth soup-like consistency. If it is too thick, add some warm water and stir till the consistency is right. Heat the Daal through again. It shoudl be piping hot before you carry out the next step in the recipe.
  • Heat the ghee on a medium flame, in a small pan till hot. Now add the Paanch Phoran and fry till spluttering stops. Add the curry leaves and green chillies and cook till spluttering stops. Turn off the fire and add the asafetida powder. Stir to mix well and add this tempering mix to the boiled lentil mixture. It will sizzle and might splutter a bit, so be careful when you do this. Stir well.
  • Serve with plain boiled rice.

Kaali Daal / Dal Makkhani

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup split urad daal (black lentils)
  • 2 large onions sliced thin
  • 2 green chillies slit
  • Salt to taste
  • A pinch of asafetida
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped into cubes
  • 2″ piece of ginger jullienned
  • 1 tbsp garlic minced
  • 2 tsps coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1/2 cup thickened/ double/ heavy cream, whisked
  • 2 tbsps vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil
  • 2 tbsps ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

Preparation:

  • Soak the Urad Daal (black lentils) in a bowl of water, overnight if possible.
  • Boil the soaked lentils with 3 cups of water, 1 sliced onion, green chillies, asafetida and salt to taste till they are very tender.
  • In a separate pan, heat the oil and fry the other onion till soft. Add the ginger and garlic and fry for a minute.
  • Add the tomatoes, coriander, cumin and red chilli powders and fry for another 5 minutes.
  • Add the boiled lentils and enough water to make a thick gravy-like consistency and mix well. Simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Pour in the whisked cream and mix well. Turn off the fire.
  • In another small pan, heat the ghee and when hot add the cumin seeds and cook till they stop spluttering.
  • Pour this into the lentils (it will all sizzle) and mix well.
  • Serve hot with a vegetable side dish and Naans (tandoor-baked leavened Indian flatbread) or Butter Chicken and Naans.

Masala Dal Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Moong Daal (split yellow lentil) washed thoroughly
  • 1 cup Masoor Daal (split red lentils) washed thoroughly
  • 1/4 tsp asafetida
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1 tsp red chilli powder
  • 2 tbsps vegetable/ canola/ sunflower cooking oil
  • 1 large onion chopped fine
  • 1 medium tomatoes chopped fine
  • 1 tbsp garlic paste
  • 1/2 tbsp ginger paste
  • 2 tsps coriander powder
  • 1 tsp cumin powder
  • 1 tsp Sambar Masala
  • 2 tbsps ghee/ clarified butter (see recipe below)
  • 7-8 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp Paanch Phoran (mixture of Cumin seeds, Fennel seeds, Nigella seeds, Fenugreek seeds and Mustard seeds)
  • 2 green chillies chopped fine (optional)
  • Salt to taste
  • Chopped coriander leaves to garnish (about 1/4 cup)

Preparation:

  • Mix the 2 washed Daals together in a pressure cooker and add enough water to just cover. Add the asafetida,1/2 tsp of turmeric and red chilli powder and salt to taste and cover. Set up to cook on a medium flame. Allow one whistle/ pressure release and reduce flame to simmer. Cook till you hear 2 more whistles/ pressure releases and turn off. Keep aside without opening the pressure cooker.
  • Heat the cooking oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan on a medium flame. Add the onions and fry till translucent.
  • Add the tomatoes, ginger and garlic pastes and fry till the tomatoes are soft and pulpy.
  • Add all the powdered spices – coriander, cumin, Sambar Masala and the remaining 1/2 tsp of turmeric and red chilli powders. Mix well and fry for 5-7 minutes.
  • Release the steam from it and open the pressure cooker. Add the boiled Daals to the masala and mix to blend well. Season with salt if necessary. Cook for 10 minutes on a medium flame. Stir ocassionally.
  • In another small pan, heat the ghee till quite hot (on a medium flame). Add the paanch phoran, curry leaves, green chillies and fry for 2-3 minutes or till the mixture stops pluttering. Stir often.
  • Turn off fire and add this mixture to the Daal. Stir well.
  • Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with Chapatis or plain boiled rice.

Lehsuni Daal Recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup masoor daal
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tbsp vegetable/sunflower/canola cooking oil
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 onion chopped fine
  • 1 tomato chopped fine
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 3 tbsp ghee (clarified butter)
  • 3 dry red chillies stalks removed and broken into small pieces
  • 1/2 tsp asafetida
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 8-10 cloves of garlic

Preparation:

  • Wash the daal thoroughly.
  • Mix the daal, water, cooking oil, turmeric powder, red chilli powder, salt to taste, onion and tomato in the pressure cooker or a deep pan and boil till the lentils are very soft.
  • In another small pan, heat the ghee well and add the cumin seeds which will sizzle. When they stop sizzling add the garlic and dry red chillies and fry till the garlic is light brown. Add the asafetida and turn off the fire.
  • Quickly add this ghee and spice mixture to the boiled daal and stir well.
  • Eat piping hot with rice and other dishes.