Indian-style Dal is a wonderful, thick, delicious soup that becomes a stew the longer it sits. The warming spices offer a welcome change from the traditional choice of chicken noodle, and the recipe is seriously, ridiculously, easily adaptable. As long as you have a few staple ingredients, you can make it with whatever you have lingering in your freezer or produce drawer and still manage to have something that tastes rich and delicious.
Indian Dal is seriously easy to make. If you know how to cook lentils and have certain spices at the ready, you don’t even need to follow a recipe.
The staple ingredients for Dal include:
- Lentils (red lentils cook more quickly than green or black, but any lentils will do)
- Garlic (diced, minced, or my favorite: paste)
- Ginger (budget friendly ground ginger is just fine)
- Cayenne or chili powder
- Garam masala (you can get this at any market with an international section)
- Water for cooking
That’s everything that you need to make a simple Dal. Even if you do not have garam masala, then cloves, coriander, fennel, and cumin would do fine… but the garam masala does add authenticity to the dish.
From there, there are many different combinations of ingredients for your Dal:
Onion, carrots, potatoes, and peas are all commonly found in Dal recipes. I especially love letting big chunks of yellow or white onion cook to buttery softness in my Dal (and letting their pungency unclog my sinuses). You could also add proteins like chicken or tofu, but Dal is an excellent vegan dish by default.
You really don’t need a recipe for Dal once you know the basics, but I want to share the fragrant red lentil and veggie Dal that I made today. In this recipe, red lentils were mixed with onion, carrots, broccoli, and cherry tomatoes to make the perfect lunch for a sick day or any cold afternoon.
It’s also good for sick times!
I’ve come down with a nose-plugging, coughing, exhausting, mind-numbing virus of yuck. If you’re unlucky enough to contract something from all the sickies like me out in the world (sorry!), you may find some solace as I have in this soup.
Mylynda’s sick day red lentil Dal recipe:
I’ll be honest, I don’t usually measure my dry ingredients and spices. It’s why all of my baking projects fail. However, these measurements will give a tasty result…
- 1 c. red lentils
- 4 c. water
- 1 white onion, chopped
- broccoli crowns, chopped, stems discarded
- 1 c. baby carrots, halved
- 1 container cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
- 1 tbsp. garlic paste*
- 2 tsp. cayenne pepper*
- 2 tsp. cumin*
- 2 tsp. turmeric*
- 2 tsp. ground ginger*
- 1 tbsp. garam masala*
- Wash your lentils. A fine metal sieve works best. After rinsing, add the lentils and water to a pot, and get it boiling. Once a gentle boil has been achieved, turn down to simmer for 10-15 minutes while you chop your veggies.
- Add a generous glug of olive oil or your favorite cooking oil to a large pot. Add the chopped onion and garlic paste. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to stir the onions and garlic for 3-5 minutes.
- After the onions have started to soften, add all of the spices. Stir continually for another 2-3 minutes, being sure not to let the mixture burn. If the spices do start to burn in the middle of the pot, add a splash of water or cooking wine and continue stirring.
- Now pour the whole pot of lentils and water in to the larger pot with the onion and spice mixture. Add the broccoli, carrots, and cherry tomatoes, making sure they’re covered by the cooking liquid. Let all of the ingredients simmer together on low heat for about 10 minutes. If you want softer vegetables, let the Dal cook until the veggies can be easily pierced with a fork.
Bonus: top your bowl with plain yogurt or greek yogurt and serve with naan, crackers, or bread.
That’s it! Easy-peasy and totally fulfilling.