You guys, for my next act, I'm going to take you on a daal-licious journey. Specifically, on a simple lentil daal journey that is as fast as it is fragrant. 35 minutes from start to finish! Can you even believe it?
I love eating Indian food, but I have to be honest with you, I don't often cook it myself at home. My two favorites are butter chicken and saag panner (mmm, I'll have to make those here next...) and my third favorite is the order of daal that always comes out first at many Indian/Himalyan restaurants. It's like my neighbor Pat says, "You don't order the daal, it just comes." Isn't that lovely? Around the world, despite hundreds of cultural differences, a bread basket or a bowl of daal are universal. They say: welcome to my home.
Speaking of restaurants, I am missing them, big time. I miss getting dressed up and sitting at a slick, marble bar. I miss ice cold martini glasses with extra olives. I miss jovial servers that make me smile and people watching. I miss sitting at crammed communal tables, and I miss good food. Food that isn't my own. Food that has been prepared with so much thought and love and care. I'm ready for the return of my favorite restaurants, ASAP.
How are you holding up? Are you doing a lot of cooking or crafting these days, or are you hanging on by a thread? Whatever you're feeling, I welcome it here. And I'm willing to bet that it'll be easier to stomach with a big, cozy bowl of daal in hand. Let's get into it.
WHAT IS DAAL?
The best definition of daal is one I found in Cooking Light. They describe it as: "Dal or dhal, is both an ingredient and a dish: it refers to a type of dried split pea or lentil and the deeply spiced stew made from simmering the split peas until nicely broken down."
WHAT KIND OF LENTILS DO YOU USE IN DAAL?
I prefer red or yellow lentils for daal, but many different varieties will work.
WHY DO YOU USE JALAPEÑO?
I find that one jalapeño pepper brings a nice heat but doesn't make the soup too spicy. I have options in my recipe notes below if you are someone who prefers more or less spice!
CAN I USE DRIED GINGER INSTEAD OF FRESH?
In this recipe, the combination of fresh ginger and garlic is what really perfumes the water and the lentils. I would encourage you to seek out fresh, this time around. Of course, if you can't find it, replace with 1 teaspoon of dried ginger.
WHAT IS GARAM MASALA?
Garam masala is a blend usually containing cumin, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, and black pepper, plus some other spices. It is made in many different ways and lots of families even have their own secret recipes that have been passed down for generations. I buy the blend from Kalustyan's in NYC, and really enjoy it. You can find it online or usually, in your local large grocery store.
WHAT IF I DON'T HAVE GARAM MASALA?
Here is a gorgeous recipe to make your own version.
HOW MUCH SALT DO YOU ADD?
I add a pinch of salt at the beginning of the cooking process to the onion, plus about a tablespoon to the 5 cups of water, but then I taste and adjust. Many salts are different in strength, so start by adding a little and you can always up the quantity if need be.
WHY DON'T YOU SOAK THE LENTILS FOR DAAL?
No need! This recipe comes together so quickly without any soaking!
I LIKE MY DAAL MORE WATERY. HOW MUCH WATER SHOULD I ADD?
You can add an extra cup of water during the cooking process (so 7 cups total instead of 6) or you can reduce the amount of lentils down to ¾ cup if you prefer a more soupy daal.
WHAT IS LIME CREMA?
Yogurt mixed with salt, pepper and lime juice! It makes a wonderful topping and compliments the daal because it is cool and creamy, and helps tame the warm spices/heat of the soup. I highly recommend it.
CAN I MAKE THIS SIMPLE LENTIL DAAL IN ADVANCE?
Yes! Daal is always better on the second day! More notes in the recipe below.Print
a simple daal recipe made using red lentils, jalapeno, ginger, garlic, and garam masala
- 1 small yellow onion (diced)
- 1 jalapeno (see notes below for more details)
- 2 fat cloves of garlic (minced)
- 1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger (minced)
- 3 tsp garam masala (divided)
- 1 14.5 oz can of diced tomatoes (I like San Marzano)
- 1 cup red lentils (I like Bob's Red Mill brand)
- 6 cups water (divided)
- kosher salt
- 4 tbsp neutral oil (grapeseed, avocado, canola, etc)
For The Lime Crema
- 2 tbsp lime juice (approximately 1 lime)
- ¼ tsp kosher salt
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- ¼ cup full-fat yogurt or sour cream
- Bring a large pot to a high heat on the stove. Add neutral oil. Add diced onion and a pinch of salt. Begin to sweat onion. Turn the heat down to medium, and cook the onion for approximately 10 minutes.
- While the onion cooks, chop your jalapeño*, ginger and garlic.
- Once the onion is translucent and starting to brown around the edges, add jalapeño, ginger and garlic. Cook for 2 minutes. Add 2tsp garam masala and a big pinch of salt. Toast the spices, stirring for another minute or two.
- Add the lentils and coat them in the spice mixture. Once the lentils are all coated, add your can of tomatoes and 5 cups of water.
- Cover the mixture with a lid (not entirely, leave room for steam to escape) and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils have absorbed most of the water and are fully cooked.
- While the soup cooks, mix together your crema. All you need to do is stir together the yogurt (or sour cream) with lime, salt and pepper. Set aside.
- After 20-25 minutes, add 1 more cup of water and 1 more teaspoon of garam masala to the soup pot. You will likely need to add more salt at this point, so taste the soup and season with salt to your liking. Stir to combine. Turn off the heat.
- Serve your daal with a dollop of lime crema on top. If you have fresh cilantro, that's a nice topping as well. The daal is ready to eat right away, but also is wonderful for several days after. It will last in the fridge for up to a week or in the freezer for 3 months.
*For the jalapeño, if you are very sensitive to spice, I would recommend removing the pith and seeds. I added the entire pepper to the soup and it was not overly spicy, just had a nice kick.
If you like things super hot, you could play around with adding more jalapeño (1.5 or even 2 peppers), or you could try a hotter pepper such as serrano.
- Prep Time: 10 minutes
- Cook Time: 25 minutes
- Category: Main Course, Soup
- Cuisine: Indian
I hope you enjoyed this recipe, and if you want more #bowlfood, check out my brothy beans with parmesan and brown butter!