Thursday, October 2, 2014

Red Lentil Dhal

Yesterday I blogged about my amazing yoga retreat weekend and how delicious the food was. You can read all about the experience here in my blog about Shanti's herb biscuits:

When I brought the Shanti cookbook home, I think I was trying to bring a little bit of Shanti back with me. Perhaps preparing the amazing vegetarian and vegan dishes from this cookbook would allow me to remember my experience at the retreat for a little bit longer. Perhaps if I could recreate some of the amazing dishes we ate, I could mentally transport myself back there where I was relaxed, at peace, and hanging with my pal. 

It was difficult to decide on the first recipe to taste; we had eaten three days' worth of delicious and lovingly prepared foods. When I finally decided on the biscuits, it wasn't because we had tasted them at Shanti (we hadn't). I chose them as my first recipe to test from the Shanti cookbook because I wanted to use the herbs in my garden. It was a good decision.

After the success of the herb biscuits, I decided to try one of the recipes that we had enjoyed at Shanti, so I settled on the meal we had eaten the first night we arrived - Lentil Dhal. I have never made a dhal before, which is kind of unbelievable to me because I love dhal, and also because I make various curries, raita, chutney, and have even made homemade naan before - why had I never tried dhal?

Dhal (or dal) is the name for a dried lentil (or pea or bean) (, but it also happens to be the name of the thick and delicious simple stew that is made with these lentils, peas, or beans. It's very basic, but can taste very complex after very little cooking time. That's right - a simple dish to make that tastes like you slaved over it. Where do I sign up?

Lucky for you I spent the weekend meditating and practising yoga, which has buoyed my spirits and provided me with incentive to cook and blog and share with you!

Here is the recipe for Shanti's Lentil Dhal. My adaptations are in brackets, as always.


1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed (oops, I forgot to do the rinsing)
4 cups vegetable broth
2 chillies, whole dried (I buy a bunch and keep them in the freezer with my lime leaves and lemongrass)
2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp sea salt
2 tbsp coconut oil or olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds (I didn't have any so I used cumin powder)
2 onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 inch fresh piece of ginger root, grated (I also keep this in the freezer)
1 cup tomato, chopped
2 tbsp lemon, freshly juiced
1 tsp garam masala

Take a big pot out of your cupboard and put the lentils, broth, turmeric, and chillies in there. 

Bring the mix to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender. You are going to want to stir this pretty frequently, and feel free to add water or broth if it starts to look a little thick too soon.

In the meantime, heat the oil in a separate pan and (medium-high heat) and add the cumin seeds (or powder, but seeds work better). Sauté for about 30 seconds until the seeds are fragrant (don't burn them!). Then add the onions, garlic, and ginger and continue to sauté for about 5 minutes. 

When the onions are beginning to brown, add the tomatoes and cook for another 7 minutes or so. (All times are approximate).

Remove from the heat once the onion mixture is done. If your lentils are done by now, remove the two chillies and add the onion mixture to the lentil mixture. Stir it all up. Add the sea salt and the garam masala, along with the lemon juice.

Chop up some green onions and fresh cilantro. 

Serve the dhal with green onions, cilantro, and a dollop of plain Greek yogurt on top. 

Dhal is amazing when served with hot naan right out of the oven. If you don't feel like making your own, I have found that frozen naan is the most similar to restaurant-quality. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F, toss in a couple of naan straight from the freezer. Bake them for 1 1/2 - 2 minutes and serve hot with your dhal. Thank me later. 


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