Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Lentils... the vegetable protein

Chilkewale Dal
Tonight I am making a mixed lentil soup for dinner. In India it is called dal, typically eaten with rice or rotis (Indian tortillas). It is also great by itself with a slice of toasted country bread and a salad of fresh vegetables.

Every time I look at my pantry and want to cook lentils, I invariably reach out for the yellow or pink lentils, because they are the fastest to cook and don't require advance planning. But my pantry is stocked with twelve kinds of lentils and today since I had time, I decided to use some that I don't use on a regular basis. I chose, pink lentils with skin (chilkewale masoor dal), yellow lentils with skin (chilkewala moong dal) and split ivory lentils with skin (chilkewala urad dal). The pink lentils with skin look brown, the yellow lentils with skin are green and the ivory lentils with skin are black in color.

These lentils need to be soaked in cold water for at least 6 hours before they can be cooked. The quickest way to cook them is in the pressure cooker. But if you are not a person who uses pressure cookers, you could cook it on the stove top for a long period of time. The finished product will have a nice creamy texture which is typical of long and slow cooking.  

Chilkewale dal

Serves 4

1/4 cup masoor dal with skin
1/4 cup whole green moong dal with skin
1/4 cup broken urad dal with skin
1 black cardamom, slightly cracked
1 1/2 cup chopped tomato, peeled and deseeded
1 cup finely chopped red onion
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste
1 1/2 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 tablespoon ghee or butter for garnish
1/4 cup finely chopped cilantro leaves for garnish

1.Soak the three dals with cold water for at least 6 hours or overnight. Drain the water and keep aside.

2. Heat a large saucepan with canola oil over medium high heat and add the black cardamom pod. Saute for 20 seconds till it is fragrant. Add the onion and saute for 3 minutes till the onions are light brown. Add the tomato, turmeric, cayenne and salt and continue to saute for another minute.

3. Now add the drained lentils and saute till the tomatoes and the lentils are well mixed and the tomatoes have almost become a sauce about 5 minutes. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and continue to cook covered for 45 minutes to one hour till the lentils are fully cooked and have acquired a creamy texture. If the water is drying up too quickly and the lentils are not cooked, add 1/4 cup of warm water at a time during cooking. The lentils are cooked when they are soft and creamy.

4. Before serving, add the ghee or butter to the hot mixture and garnish with cilantro leaves.

Note: If you are serving the soup with bread, you could add cream instead of ghee or butter.

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