Legumes or dried beans and peas have been a part of the ancient Indian culinary tradition. The generic name for all members of the dried pea and bean family is dal. Easily digested and highly nutritious, dals contain enzymes, fiber, minerals, and vitamins and is an accompaniment of almost every Indian lunch. The repertoire of dal dishes is indeed extensive, from liquid soups and thick purees, stews, fried appetizers, crispy pancakes and crepes, sauces, and chutneys to sprouted salads and delicious sweetmeats. Dal is always prepared in combination with pungent herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, onion, black pepper, chilies, mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds, salt, and oil or clarified butter for better digestion.
Spicy Lentils with Turmeric (Dal)
1 pound pink lentils, soaked in cold water for 10 minutes
2 quarts water
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt to taste
¼ cup corn oil
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 red dried chili
1 medium onion, peeled and sliced fine
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
½ -inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
¼ teaspoon asafoetida
1 large tomato, chopped
2 pounds zucchini, sliced into ¼-inch pieces (optional)
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
Wash the lentils. In a large pot, add water, lentils, turmeric, and salt. Cover and boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally for 30 minutes until lentils are tender. Heat the oil in a wok over high heat. Add cumin, mustard seeds and red chili, stirring over medium heat until seeds start popping and chili turns a shade darker. Add onions, garlic, and ginger, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Add asafoetida and mix thoroughly for a few seconds. Add lentils, tomato, and zucchini and mix thoroughly. Cover and cook for 5-6 minutes. Add cilantro and serve hot with plain Basmati rice, roti or crackers.
Let’s curry! Discover and share my dazzling repertoire of authentic, delicious, healthy, and easy-to-prepare recipes of diverse flavors with your family and friends from my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at www.feastofindia.net.