Listen up because this is the best lentil side dish I’ve ever made. How on earth can lentils taste this good! Daal actually means lentil but it can also mean a thick lentil stew often prepared in Indian cuisine. The way Daal is prepared makes it seem like a hybrid between a lentil soup and a lentil stew. But stew is definitely the right word, it’s great for cold fall days when you need something substantial but light.
With the right balance of spices, a hint of coconut oil and a low and slow cooking method, you can be on your way to eating creamy lentils in no time! I think the key here is to make sure to toast the spices, if you skip this step, it could end up tasting more along the lines of cardboard than a Bombay dream.
There are many different kinds of Daal ( or lentils), there’s red, green, brown and black. I find red takes less time to soak (only 30 minutes), so if you want your Daal sooner than later, it’s best to choose the red variety. Most Daal recipes call for butter, but I decided to substitute it out for coconut oil. I also added sweet potatoes which provided a sweet flavour and went quite well with the spices.
1 cup red lentils
2 cups water
1 white onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1 1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely minced
4 vine tomatoes (or 2 medium tomatoes), chopped
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp chili flakes (optional)
Salt and pepper to season
Soak lentils in water for 30 minutes, then rinse and drain. Bring water, lentils, onion, garlic, ginger, tomatoes to a boil, then cover and reduce to low, cook for 30-40 minutes. Refrain from adding salt at this stage because it will prevent lentils from getting tender and soft. Halfway through cooking, add sweet potatoes. Heat a non-stick skillet to med-low, add in 1 tbsp of oil. Once oil is well heated, add in mustard seeds and cumin seeds, cover skillet with lid and let them splutter for 30 seconds. Shake skillet to prevent burning. Remove from heat immediately. Once lentil/tomato mixture is cooked, whisk mixture vigorously to release starch, add in mustard/cumin oil, seeds and all. Add in turmeric powder, chili powder and chili flakes, add in an additional teaspoon of coconut oil if desired (for extra creaminess!). Salt and pepper to season. Chop up cilantro and garnish. Serve with rice as a main dish or serve as a side dish. Makes 4 main portions.