Dal is an Indian comfort-food standby made with lentils, dried beans or peas. Tarka is a technique in which spices are sauteed in oil to magnify their flavor. And as we learned from spice guru Monica Bhide, you’ll enjoy even more vivid flavor if you grind whole spices. Prepare the tarka and raita while the lentils simmer. Serve with brown basmati rice, roasted cauliflower and our Fennel and Mint Raita.
1 cup red lentils, rinsed and sorted
2 cups chicken OR vegetable stock
1/2 cup water
1 small (1-inch) dried red chile pepper
2 tablespoons DIY Ghee, canola oil or coconut oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground fennel
1 small onion, thinly vertically sliced
1 carrot, julienne cut (a julienne peeler makes this an easy job)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Sea salt, to taste
1/2 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
4 lime wedges
Combine lentils, stock and water in a medium saucepan; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 18 minutes or until tender, stirring occasionally. Crush lentils with the back of a large spoon (or use an immersion blender to puree lentils to desired texture).
While the lentils simmer, place dried chile in a spice or coffee grinder; process to grind (or use a mortar and pestle). Heat ghee in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add ground chile, cumin, turmeric, coriander and fennel. Cook 1 minute or until fragrant. Add onion, carrot and garlic. Sprinkle with sugar. Reduce heat to medium-low; cook 10 minutes, or until very tender. Season with salt to taste. Stir onion mixture, peas and lime juice into cooked lentils. Adjust seasoning. Serve lentils with lime wedges.
Redolent with spices and bursting with flavor, this Indian-cuisine staple is a comforting dish at the end of a long day.