Dal (also known as daal or dhal) is both the name of split pulses (of varying types) and the soup/stew made with the pulses! This is one of our favourite recipes of the latter type, using the quick to cook little red lentil (also known as Masoor Dal) which means unlike a dal made with Chana Dal (which takes around 3hrs to cook), this is ready in around 30-40minutes.
Indian cuisine would be nothing without dal. Recipes date back thousands of years, making this dish a cheap and nutritious staple in most households. In medieval India, it was the revival of the dum pukht technique (slow cooking in steam) that raised the stature of dal, especially chana dal (Bengal gram), in the royal menu. So much so that in years to follow, serving any other dal except chana dal to the Emperor was considered a suicidal move by the royal cooks.
The key element of traditional dal dishes is the boiling of the dal pulse, usually in water, to which a Tarka (fried spice blend, sometimes combined with vegetables like spinach and tomatoes) is stirred through at the end before serving. It can be simple and lightly spiced like a Tarka Dal or smoky and rich like a Makhani Dal.
Our recipe is luscious and smooth, plus it makes an excellent introduction to spicing for kids as well as being a gentle tummy soother. The sweet potato could be swapped out for many other veg as it gets added at the end!
My Sweet Daaling
Serves 6-8 decent servings (freezes well without the sweet potato added)
- 1 bigger sweet potato or 2 smaller
- 1 large brown onion
- 1 – 2 carrots
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 1 x 5cm chunk of ginger
- 1 cup / 150g red lentils
- 1.5 cup/360ml vegetable stock or water
- 1 tin of coconut milk
- 1 small tin of chopped tomatoes OR 4 fresh tomatoes
- Spices: 5-6 fresh or dried curry leaves, cumin seeds, ground turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin, cumin seeds, garam masala
- 1 – 2 tsp salt
- Optional: 0.5tsp Asafoetida (if you have it – this helps with digesting the pulses, especially if like me you have issues with this!)
- Handful of freshly chopped coriander
- 1/2 a fresh lemon
- Vegetable or coconut oil
- Peel and chop the sweet potato into equal sized 2cm chunks. Place on a baking tray and sprinkle with 1 tsp cumin, a liberal sprinkle of salt, a drizzle of oil and 1 tsp garam masala. If using fresh tomatoes, mix in with the potatoes here. Stir to coat with oil and roast @180C for 30mins.
- While the potato is cooking, chop the onion roughly and finely grate the ginger and garlic. Prepare the carrot by grating it.
- Fry the curry leaves & 1 tsp cumin seeds in 2 TBSP of oil until they start to pop (also fry Asafoetida now if using). Add the onion and fry for 5mins until soft. Add the grated ginger and garlic now, and fry for a further 2-3mins.
- Add the grated carrot and sizzle for 5mins more. Then add the spices: 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp turmeric, 1 tsp garam masala and stir to combine.
- After 4-5mins, pour in the chopped tomatoes if you’re using and stir to combine. Now add the lentils, 1 tsp salt, vegetable stock/water and coconut milk. Stir together, put on a lid and let simmer for 20mins (stirring occasionally).
- After 20mins, uncover and test to check lentils have cooked. If so, stir through the roasted sweet potato, chopped fresh coriander and the squeeze of lemon. Check for seasoning and serve!
Delicious served with brown basmati rice, a dollop of greek or coconut yoghurt and a spoonful of mango chutney. A warm hug in a bowl…
Here are some other dal ideas:
- Make the base but add 3 small grated beetroot at the same time as the carrot for a rich red beetroot dal
- Stir fry some fresh spinach with onions and fresh tomatoes plus spices, then stir through the cooked dal for a spinach dal
- Roast some spiced courgette chunks and stir through at the end!
All this dal thinking has got me hungry. Time for lunch…think I’ll have left over dal!