Dal is a staple of Indian food. I used Shasta yellow lentils and coconut oil rather than the more traditional salmon-colored red lentils and vegetable oil or ghee. There are also many variations for the final flavorings of dal. For this recipe, I chose a combination of whole black mustard seeds, bay leaf, finely grated ginger and ground cayenne pepper fried in coconut oil.
2 cups Shasta yellow lentils
2 quarter-sized slices of fresh ginger, peeled
1.5 teaspoons of ground turmeric
1.5 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons coconut oil
4 teaspoons whole black mustard seeds
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
Pick over the lentils removing any visible dirt or small stones. Place in a colander and rinse several times. Drain. Put in a pot and cover with 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Skim away any surface scum. Add the quarter-size ginger and turmeric. Turn heat to low and simmer 1.5 hours or until lentils are very soft. When done, a thick puree of lentils settles at the bottom and a thin “dal” water rises to the top. Stir a few times during the last 20 minutes of cooking to avoid sticking. Add salt and stir. Cover the dal and keep it hot.
Heat the coconut oil in a small cast iron skillet (or heavy-bottom skillet, if you don’t have cast iron). When hot, add the mustard seeds, bay leaf, grated ginger and cayenne pepper. Stir continuously until the black mustard seeds begin to pop. Quickly poor the oil and all the spices into the hot dal. Stir. Cover immediately and let the dal absorb the flavorings for at least 1 minute before serving. Serve hot with flat bread, rice and fresh greens. Makes 8-12 servings.
Colette DePhelps is, above all, a local food enthusiast. At home or abroad, she searches out and enjoys preparing and eating local, seasonal cuisine. Writing PCFC Local Foods, Local Flavors blog posts is a family endeavor – with “Wait, I have to get a picture!” a common household phrase. In her free time, Colette is a Community Food Systems Area Extension Educator with University of Idaho serving Idaho’s ten northern counties