Monday, August 03, 2009

Cooking on a Budget: Masoor Dal

A couple of weeks ago a friend emailed me that she was thinking of making a dal from a recipe she found on Live Journal. It looked pretty good, and I just happened to have, oh, about four pounds of red lentils in my pantry from my last trip down to Devon Avenue, so I decided to take a stab at a dal of my own.

A dal is a stew that can be prepared from any number of pulses, or lentils. Because I have so much masoor dal (red lentils) on hand, that is what I decided to use. I am somewhat proud of myself, because this is my first solo flight with Indian cuisine. Up until now, I have always followed a recipe because I was not sure enough of the flavors and techniques to be confident of a happy ending. But as I have been cooking more Indian food, I have noticed some patterns. With dal, one of the patterns is that you might cook the lentils in one pot, and then you saute the onions, spices and other vegetables in a different pot and add them to the lentils at the end.

That is what I did here. I cooked the lentils in some of my homemade vegetable stock. While they were cooking I sauteed the other ingredients, and then combined them at the end. For such a quick, simple dish, the flavors are complex, and the spices provide layers of subtlety that tease the tastebuds.

This is fast and easy to make, and it travels well for lunches. When you've just gotten home from work and need a quick dinner that will work as well for next day's lunch, this is a real winner. It's also versatile. You can pretty much use any combination of vegetables and spices - whatever you have on hand.

And it's super easy on the budget as well.

Total Cost: $1.19
Cost per Serving: $0.30
Home Cookin Chapter: My Recipes
Serves 4

1 cup red lentils, sorted, rinsed and drained
1 quart chicken or vegetable broth
salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp ghee or oil
1 tsp brown mustard seeds
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp ajwain, optional
1/2 medium onion, but into thirds lengthwise and thinly sliced
1 tomato, diced
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup coconut milk, optional

yogurt for garnish

In large saucepan over high heat, bring broth to a boil. Add lentils,reduce to a simmer and cook until tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

While lentils are cooking, heat ghee in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add mustard seeds. When seeds start popping, cover the skillet until the popping stops. Remove the cover, lower the heat, and add the red pepper flakes, letting them cook for about 30 seconds. Add onions and saute until they are translucent. Add the spices and cook for one minute, being careful not to let them burn. Add tomato and cook until the tomato breaks down, 15 to 20 minutes. Add coconut milk and cook until just heated through.

Add tomato mixture to lentils. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt for garnish.


Exported from Home Cookin 5.9 (

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