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Spicy Red Lentil Dal with Lamb and Vegetables

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Serves six.

  • To learn more, read:
    Flex Your Meals
  • by Ivy Manning from Fine Cooking
    Issue 103

Dal—a thick, spicy Indian stew made with legumes like chickpeas and lentils—is a classic vegetarian dish, but tender pieces of lamb are a natural fit. Serve with basmati rice.

This recipe is easily adaptable to serve meat-lovers and vegetarians alike: see the variation below to serve two vegetarians, or check out the totally meatless version of this recipe.

  • 1-1/2 lb. boneless leg of lamb, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 tsp. garam masala or curry powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped (1-1/2 cups)
  • 4 medium cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. peeled and chopped fresh ginger (from a 2-inch piece)
  • 1 serrano chile, stemmed and chopped
  • 3 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
  • 1-1/2 cups red lentils
  • 1/2 small head of cauliflower, cut into 1-1/2 -inch pieces (about 3 cups)
  • 4 medium carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces (about 2-1/2 cups)
  • 2 large Yukon Gold potatoes (about 8 oz. each), peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (1-1/4 cups)
  • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium bowl, mix the lamb with 2 tsp. of the garam masala, 1 tsp. salt, and 1/2 tsp pepper.

In a food processor, pulse the onion, garlic, ginger, and chile in 1-second intervals until finely chopped. (Don’t run the processor constantly or the mixture will become too watery.)

Heat 2 Tbs. of the oil in a 4- to 5-quart pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds. When the seeds begin to pop and turn gray, about 1 minute, stir in the remaining 3 tsp. garam masala, the onion mixture, lentils, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, turmeric, 6 cups of water, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt.

In a 12-inch skillet, heat the remaining 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat and brown the lamb, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer the meat to the pot of dal. Deglaze the skillet with 1/2 cup water, let it reduce by half, and add the liquid to the dal as well. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce to medium low, and cover. Simmer until the vegetables and meat are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the cilantro.

Variations

To serve 2 vegetarians and 4 meat lovers: Reduce lamb meat to 1 lb. Before cooking and adding the lamb to the dal, transfer 3 cups of the dal to a 2-quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cover. Simmer until vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Meanwhile, proceed with the recipe as above to cook the lamb and simmer it with the remaining dal. Season both pots to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the cilantro (1/4 cup for the vegetarians, 3/4 cup for the meat lovers) just before serving.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 470; Fat (g): 14; Fat Calories (kcal): 130; Saturated Fat (g): 2.5; Protein (g): 35; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 6; Carbohydrates (g): 51; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 4; Sodium (mg): 650; Cholesterol (mg): 60; Fiber (g): 11;

Photo: Scott Phillips

My husband and I liked this and have made it several times. It has a nice level of spiciness and it's filled with good, healthy things. We sometimes buy lamb chops and include the bones while the dal is cooking, which boosts the lamb flavor of the final dish.

Definitely a disappointment. The recipe says spicy in the title, but it was really lacking. I might try it again with some adjustments to seasoning, but the veggies and lentils were overcooked and pretty mushy and the lack of flavor made this not a hit in our house.

My family and liked this one very much! I used half curry powder and half garam masala - was very nice.

Unfortunately, the seasonings are off with this recipe. Five teaspoons of garam masala are excessive since garam masala typically has a high proportion of aromatics (cinammon, cardamom, cloves)among its ingredients. This recipe might be better with different seasonings and whole spices (cumin, fennel seeds) instead of powdered spices.

I was disappointed with the results of this recipe. I followed it closely with poor result. We had some raita in the refrigerator from our favorite Indian take out and that helped some, but no one really liked it. I would not make it again. I am not used to being disappointed with Fine cooking recipes.

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