I grew up in Malaysia where Indian food was abundant. We would eat lentil stews (known as dhal) over rice almost every day as it was filling and very cheap. Little did I know how nutritious it was.
Dhal, made of lentils can take so many forms and colors; the base is the same, but just by adding different veggies into it, you can transform it to something totally different. So go ahead and experiment with green, brown or red lentils (the latter will cook very fast). Puree it if you like; that would make it into a very warming, filling soup.
Make a big pot of dhal and freeze it up in glass containers for future meals; this way you save time and money. Dhal keeps well in the freezer for 6 months.
Lentils are extremely high in protein, this is why vegetarians use them to get a complete meal when served over rice (or any grain like amaranth, quinoa, etc). The Garam Masala spice is like a dose of medicine in one spoon; aids digestion, for one. Turmeric is my favorite anti-inflammatory spice which should not be cooked, this is why we add it at the end of cooking.Prep time: 15 min Cooking time: 40 min Persons: 4
The Ingredients; the base:
- 1 tbsp coconut oil
- 1 medium brown onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic (crushed)
- 1 tsp ginger (finely chopped)
- 1 red chili, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 1 tsp Garam Masala *
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 1 cup red lentils, rinsed and drained
- 2 chopped tomatoes
- 2 cups filtered water
- salt and pepper to taste
Optional, to jazz up the dhal:
- 2 sheets of kombu (seaweed, super nutritious and will speed up lentil cooking time)
- 2 carrots, sliced
- 1 yellow potato, chopped (Leave out to make Thyroid-GAPS friendly)
- 1 bunch of kale / spinach / chard, chopped
- 2 tbsp of chopped cilantro (aka coriander)
- Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and add the onion, garlic, ginger and chili.
- Sauté until the onion is golden. Add the Garam Masala, and lentils and sauté for another minute.
- Add the tomatoes and water and bring to a boil before lowering the heat.
- If you are using kombu, carrots, and/or sweet potato, add it now too.
- Cover and simmer for 40 minutes or until lentils are soft and the stew is thick.
- Take it off the heat and add turmeric at the very end (its medicinal properties are not as powerful when cooked)
- If you decide to use kale, put it in now, cover the pot and let it stand for 7 minutes; the heat of the stew will cook it.
- Sprinkle coriander
- Serve it over brown rice or amaranth
- Put away your fork and knife, try eating with your fingers; it tastes so much better. There is a trick to eating with your hands, learn it here.
* Garam masala
In case you can’t find it in your local store, here is how to make it. Don’t stress too much if you can’t find all spices; use what you have access too. It’s still going to be yummy.
- 4 tbsps coriander seeds
- 1 tbsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp black peppercorns
- 1 ½ tsps black cumin seeds (shahjeera)
- 1 ½ tsps dry ginger
- ¾ tsp black cardamom (3-4 large pods approx)
- ¾ tsp cloves
- ¾ tsp cinnamon (2 X 1” pieces)
- ¾ tsp crushed bay leaves
- Heat a heavy skillet on a medium flame and gently roast all ingredients (leave cardamom in its pods till later) except the dry ginger, till they turn a few shades darker. Stir occasionally. Do not be tempted to speed up the process by turning up the heat as the spices will burn on the outside and remain raw on the inside.
- When the spices are roasted turn of the flame and allow them to cool.
- Once cooled, remove the cardamom seeds from their skins and mix them back with all the other roasted spices.
- Grind them all together, to a fine powder in a clean, dry coffee grinder.
- Store in an air-tight container in a cool, dark place.
2 Responses to Lentil Stew/Soup
As you know we Indians eat a lot of lentils in our diet – and I make a variety of dhals, several recipes. However, we always cook the dhal (to soften, before adding the spices etc) in a pressure cooker for 5-10 mins, not slow cook. Does pressure cooking reduce the nutiritional value of the dhal?
Also we usually add the turmeric while pressure cooking, not at the end, so it doesnt have the raw smell. Your p.o.v. please…
Thanks for the GREAT questions!
Pressure cooker question: it’s the best way to cook as short-term heat is applied to the food, so the food remains more nutritious. Pressure cookers are more popular in Asia and Europe than the US, this is why I do not promote it here as it will turn people away (perceived as another complication). But! You just gave me an idea on what to cover in one of my newsletters! So, thanks for that. And keep using that pressure cooker.
When to add spices/turmeric: I’m a bit of a fan of Ayurveda which recommends putting turmeric at the end, as your medicine. Turmeric has highly anti-imflammatory properties which we highly need in today’s life, esp the Western diet. Inflammation is the underlying root cause of most diseases today. But, if you eat a balanced diet (the way you do) and do not suffer from illnesses putting turmeric at the end it just fine.