I've always loved Indian food, but I truly learned to love it when I started eating vegetarian in high school. With no other cuisine was I assured delicious, filling and balanced meals when friends and I would treat ourselves to dinner out. While I've added meat back into my diet since then, I still love preparing some of my favorite vegetarian Indian dishes, like this 5-lentil dal recipe, particularly because here in France, it can be hard to find a fantastic Indian restaurant.
This recipe isn't necessarily 100 percent traditional. It's a riff off of many different recipes I've tried. 5-lentil dal is also known as panch kurki dal in Gujarati, the language of the region of Gujarat. Panch means five, in reference to the different légumes used. Kurki means split; traditionally, split lentils are used when making this dish. Traditional Indian split dal are hard to find in Paris, so I use more easy to find légumes, like brown, red and yellow lentils, split peas and chickpeas.
5-Lentil Dal Recipe
Ingredients for the spice mix
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
3 large onions, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon garam masala
1 tsp. ground chili pepper (more to taste)
1 and 1/2 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes
salt to taste
Rinse and pick over the lentils and split peas and place in a pot with enough water to cover by about an inch. Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and add the curry powder and cayenne pepper. Cover the pot and allow to simmer until tender, about an hour. Add more water if necessary during the cooking process.
Make the spice blend: sauté the onion in the oil with a hefty pinch of salt until translucent and just beginning to brown, 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and spices, and cook until fragrant, about one minute. Add the tomato juices and simmer until reduced by half. Add the tomatoes, crushing each in your hands before adding. Allow to reduce for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the majority of the liquid has cooked off and the paste is thick and saucy.
Add the chickpeas and the spice blend to the lentils, seasoning generously with salt. Simmer over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes, or until the flavors have come together and any excess liquid has cooked off the dal.
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