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Spicy Red Lentil Dal with Winter Vegetables

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Serves 6

  • 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. It's perfect for nights when you want quick, flavor-packed comfort food.  

  • 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
  • 2 Tbs. vegetable oil
  • 1-1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
  • 1 Tbs. garam masala or curry powder
  • 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
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup chopped fresh cilantro

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 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 garam masala, onion mixture, lentils, cauliflower, carrots, potatoes, turmeric, 6 cups of water, and 1-1/2 tsp. salt.

Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and cover. Simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and stir in the cilantro.

Serving Suggestions

Serve with Basmati Rice.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 320; Fat (g): 6; Fat Calories (kcal): 60; Saturated Fat (g): 0.5; Protein (g): 16; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 2; Carbohydrates (g): 51; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): 610; Cholesterol (mg): 0; Fiber (g): 11;

Photo: Scott Phillips

This was wonderful. I'm making it for the second time tonight. A really great way to make vegetarian food without missing the meat. I used good spices that I bought from my local Indian grocer, which I think makes a huge difference in this dish. Only complaint... it needs more cauliflower. I LOVE cauliflower.

This one just didn't work. There was too much liquid which produced a mashy soup. Also, the end resulted tasted very strongly of onions - I would saute them first with the spices before adding the liquid, maybe that would help. I'd look for another version before I'd try this one again.

Great flavor and very easy to cook. I used a 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper in place of the serrano chile because I did not have any on hand. I simmered the crushed red pepper and garam masala in the oil for a few minutes before adding the onion mixture, lentils, and vegetables. I also used 4 cups chicken broth and 2 cups water but found this to be too much liquid. Next time I plan to cut the liquid down to 4 cups.

This is my favourite kind of recipe: easy,cheap, healthy and ethnic. After reading the other reviews I decided that I would throw a sweet potato into the mix as well. After the curry had cooked a half hour I just mashed the sweet potato pieces to thicken the sauce. Six cups of water was fine, I thought. I also added cumin seeds and ground coriander after the black mustard seeds. I will definitely make this again.

I made this recipe last night and though I liked the flavor, six cups of water is way too much. By the time I cooked the extra water off, the vegetables had cooked down to complete mush. I liked the flavor, but the next time I make it I will probably only use four cups of water. I topped mine with sour cream.

The flavor is good but that's all. It wasn't thick by any means, more like a brothy soup instead of a stew. I used canned, drained and rinsed garbanzo beans instead of the red lentils so that may be why, but I can't imagine 1-1/2 c of dry beans would absorb all that liquid. Don't think I'll make it again.

The heading mentions Chickpeas, but they're nowhere in the ingredient list. Was this a typo? Most Dal recipes I've seen do include these and they'd be a great addition.

Amazingly easy to throw together, and fantastic flavor. This would be great one to make a big batch for a casual get together...

Wow, just made this recipe and it is SPICY! My husband does not like cilantro, so I added frozen peas in for color. Next time I make this I will use 1/4 of the serrano chili instead of the whole thing and I will add one additional carrot.

Delicious--except I do use half chicken broth/half water to add a bit more depth of flavor the the vegetarian version of this dish. I'm not a vegetarian, but I really love this dal without meat. I've made it several times--not with the lamb, just the vegetables--it's my go-to quick meal. I also do not have the chile on hand, so I use crushed red pepper for heat.

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