Sometimes the simple things in life are best. An easy lunch full of complex carbs, light on the meat and chock full of health is sometimes just the ticket to better health and a comforting day.
Weekdays when we perhaps don’t have long to get those lunches together can be plagued by bad decisions, burgers on the run and afterwards guilt. It really isn’t our fault if the day is in such a big hurry!
What would be helpful is something that can be prepared ahead, and quickly at that, so we can be armed and ready when hunger strikes after a busy morning. A simple dal is made from pulses, which are lentils. Various types of lentils can be used, which may affect consistency of the dal and also the cooking time. In this dal I use yellow mung dal, which are split mung beans. You can buy those in any international market. However, if you can’t find those in your area, don’t be shy about using brown lentils or French green lentils. Those are a bit different- will change the taste slightly, change the cooking time and the thickness of the porridge. But the great thing about dal is that you can cook it until it is just the right thickness for you. Some people like a very thick dal, similar to the consistency of cooked oats. Others like them watery, more like a soup. Personally, I like mine medium thick, with the consistency being like spaghetti sauce or chili.
The spicing in dal is mild- you might expect with what spices it has that it might be more assertive, like a curry, but it is not. I think it can also be a great counterpoint with served with spicy curries such as vindaloo in a multi-course meal. It does have flavor and that flavor can be punched up by using a vegetable or chicken stock in lieu of water, although water is what I prefer. You can garnish with sliced chillies if you like more heat, or just add a little more cayenne while it cooks, but be careful! Ground pepper is easy to add but just will not come out (like a stubborn laundry stain!) Adding the garam masala at the end of cooking ensures that the aromatic character of those spices does not dissipate. You can add just at the end of cooking, or even sprinkle on like a garnish from a small spice shaker.
As for accompaniments, I like grilled flat breads with this, and nan bread, chapatis, puris and bhatura come to mind, but you could easily serve a warm pita bread or even something like focaccia or warm flour tortillas. Whatever you have that you like is what works best.
My heart beats with a pulse.
Sometimes I think of nothing else
But simmering gently in the pot
A simple dal is what I’ve got.
Softening lentils with curry spice
Aromatic garam masala is very nice
With warm and toasty chapatis
A simple meal that’s sure to please.
by Sue Lau | Palatable Pastime
- 1 small onion, finely chopped (or shallots as sub)
- 1 tablespoon mustard oil or ghee
- 1/4 teaspoon black mustard seed
- 1 cup yellow moong dal, picked and rinsed (split yellow mung beans)
- 4 cups water
- 1 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon ground coriander seed
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (add at end of cooking)
- sliced serrano or thai chili (garnish)
- chopped fresh cilantro (garnish)
- Heat oil in a small saucepan and add mustard seed; allow seed to sizzle then add onion and cook until soft.
- Stir in the rinsed moong dal, water, salt, turmeric, ground coriander seed, cayenne, and garlic.
- Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 30 minutes.
- Stir in garam masala just prior to serving and garnish with sliced chillies and fresh cilantro as desired.
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