I’ve said this before when making soup back in the Neolithic, but lentils do NOT get enough love. When prepared right, these earthy, creamy, protein-packed legumes are truly delicious, which is why lentils, or Dal, are consumed and beloved by all cultures across India.
There are uncountable ways to cook them, and all sorts of things to add to make a unique dish. But to honor that tasty tradition, of one of the only ingredients to unite all of Indian cuisine, I wanted to make something I could call the “ultimate” Dal, while mostly keeping it pure and simple, with no superfluous ingredients. Just onions, garlic, spices, and lentils. Five kinds of them in fact.
I know, it’s final form is not the most appetizing looking thing ever to be cooked on Anthrochef, but the flavor? I promise you it will blow your mind.
Note: This recipe is more of a guide than a specific set of instructions. Feel free to substitute any amount or combination of lentils, and the same goes for whatever spices you want to use!
ULTIMATE MIXED DAL
1/4 cup yellow dal
1/4 cup black lentils (gram)
1/4 cup split peas
1/4 cup brown lentils
1/4 cup red lentils
4 or more cups water
2 tbsp. ghee (clarified butter)
1 small yellow onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, rough chopped
1 teaspoon whole cumin seed
1/2 teaspoon coriander seed
1 cinnamon stick
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teapoon mustard seeds
Basmati rice, Fresh herbs, and chonk to serve
If necessary, prepare the ghee and then temper some spices in it to make chonk. Next, get ready to cook by grinding all the spices listed in the recipe. I prefer to leave leave them pretty coarse, not too fine.
Melt two tablespoons of the plain ghee over medium heat. When hot, add the ground spices and sautee until fragrant and slightly browned, about one minute. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the edges are softened, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the lentils and stir in, sauteeing for one more minute before adding 4 cups of water. Season generously with salt, bring the mixture to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook on low for about one whole hour, stirring occasionally and adding more water if it dries out.
Do not stop cooking until the lentils are extremely soft and creamy. Some lentils will finish cooking before the others. The only way you can screw this is up is by undercooking it, so when in doubt, keep going. You’ll know when it’s done.
When the lentils are all cooked add more water if you want a soupier consistency and taste again for seasoning. Also optional: mashing some with a fork or in a blender to make it thicker and creamier. Remember, lentils are versatile! It’s entirely up to you how the final product looks.
Serve over basmati rice, and garnish with fresh herbs and chonk. There are few foods that can claim to be both the ultimate in simplicity AND in flavor. And the humble lentil might just be king, or Raj, of them all.