Indian lentils, Masoor Dal.
Indian food is my passion and this passion runs through all the women in my family in Ireland. Weird, I know. My Aunty Moira lived beside some Indian Diplomat in Dublin in the ’60s. And, apparently after dining with them one night, their cook took her under her wing and taught her how to make curry. She passed on her skills to some of her sisters and her nieces, my sisters. As soon as I was old enough, I too learned to cook Indian food. Sharwood’s curry powder was King of the pantry back then and it makes a fine tasting curry if you are in a hurry.
When I moved to California, I found a wonderful hole-in-the-wall spice store on Venice Boulevard called “India’s Sweets and Spices.” My curries transcended to a whole new level. I was like a kid in a sweet shop, heady with the aromatic scents that permeated the air. Sacks of fragrant Basmati rice were stacked on the floor and a dazzling array of whole spices, like green and black cardamon pods that hold the wee seeds with their exotic taste. Not easy to describe it, but when I bit down on a seed an explosion of lemony, eucalyptus and honey delighted my palate and transported me to another world.
Cardamon is the seed of a tropical fruit in the ginger family and is used in Ayurvedic medicine. The Egyptians chewed the seed to whiten their teeth and freshen their breath. Check out this link on Cardamon. It is the third most expensive spice in the world, saffron and vanilla being the other two.
I use them in savory dishes and curries, and sweet dishes like Indian rice pudding.
Indian lentils, Masoor dal. A dal is a dish made with lentils. It can be a main dish for vegetarians or vegans, or a side to accompany a variety of meats and veggie curries. There are so many combinations and lentils to choose from that I am sharing this easy recipe as a good start to cooking with lentils and spice. It is a gift to the taste buds. You can use ground spice if you can’t find whole. I grind my spices from the whole seed in a coffee grinder I keep especially for spices.
- 1/2 pound red split lentils
- 1 medium onion sliced thinly
- 2 -3 cloves of garlic chopped
- 1 green or red chili chopped
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1 tsp whole cumin
- 2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 4 cloves
- 4 cardamon removed from pod
- 1 stick of cinnamon
- 1 tsp Himalayan fine salt
- 2 oz unsweetened coconut flakes (or sweetened)
- 1 -2 Tbs coconut oil
- 2 tomatoes
- fresh cilantro for garnish
- Wash the lentils well with plenty of water till they run clear, then put into a saucepan and add enough cold water to cover. Bring to boil then simmer till lentils are soft.
- Meanwhile add the coconut oil to a big frying pan, and fry the onions till they soften.
- Add garlic, chili and cumin seeds and cook for a couple of minutes.
- Add the coriander, ground cumin, turmeric and chili powder, mix well.
- Add the cloves cardamon and cinnamon stick.
- Add the cooked lentils together with any liquid they have been cooking in.
- Stir quickly to ensure the spices mix well into the lentils, add more water if necessary this dish should be fairly liquid. like a Pease pudding, Add the salt and coconut flakes and mix well and continue to cook for 5 minutes or so. taste and add more salt if needed.
- Just before serving chop the tomatoes into quarters and add to the dal.
- Scatter the cilantro leaves to garnish.
Delicious. Serve with basmati rice, naan bread, fried poppadum or chapatti.