It’s almost the best time of the year. There is now light at dawn and no need for a warm jacket in the evening. Zürich is bursting with flowers and we now take long walks around the lake. The cafes are lively until late at night. I have way too much work, but find the time to run in the evening, along a river lined with blooming cherry trees.
The reward, at the end of the day, is a nourishing dinner that is easy to digest, sophisticated but yet simple. This dahl (which means « lentils » in Hindi) fits the bill. It contains a lof of protein and fiber, it is full of flavours and with an almost soupy texture that I really like.
Pre-shelled red lentils cook in no time. This is the kind of dish I whip up after work. I let it boil for 20 minutes then turn off the heat, put on a lid and go running or do some yoga. If you also have a cast iron pot, which keeps the heat for a long time, this method allows you to stay away from the stove during the cooking process. When I come home, it’s ready.
Don’t be scared by the long list of ingredients. Everything can be found in an Indian grocery store. The Asafoetida is entirely optional, as are the curry leaves. If I had to keep only three spices for this recipe, I would advise you not to omit the cumin, turmeric and ginger. The addition of a little coconut milk – super yummy – is very welcome too. In the end, this recipe may be totally different from a traditional indian dahl – I would have no way of knowing it – but it is definitely tasty.
The simplest dahl
Serves 6 to 8
- 500 g red lentils
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tsp coconut oil (or ghee)
- 1 onion
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 knob fresh ginger
- 1/2 to 1 tsp dried chili
- 1 tsp coriander seeds
- 1 can of crushed tomates (approx 400 g)
- 1/2 tsp unrefined sea salt
Optional but delicious
- 10 curry leaves (if dried, or 5 if fresh)
- 1 tsp garam masala blend
- A pinch of anise seeds, or fennel seeds
- 1 pinch Asafetida
- Brown rice
- Fresh cilantro
- Lemon wedges
- Full fat yogurt
Soak the lentils for 12 hours at least. Drain, and place them in a large pot. Cover with water, up to 2 cm above the lentils. Add the turmeric powder, salt, chili and Asafetida and curry leaves if using.
Bring to a boil for 5 minutes, then lower the heat and let simmer over medium heat.
Meanwhile, toast the cumin seeds – and possibly anise seeds – in a frying pan until they are browned and fragrant (about 2 minutes). Reserve in a bowl.
Melt the coconut oil in a pan (the same pan!). Add the finely chopped onion and crushed garlic. Cook them for a few minutes. Then add the toasted cumin, the freshly grated ginger, coriander seeds and garam masala. Continue cooking until onions are translucent. Then add the tomatoes. Cook over high heat for 5 minutes. Here, I like to add a little bit of apple cider vinegar, certainly not traditional, but adds a nice tang!
Add the mixture to the lentils. Add more water if necessary and continue cooking over low heat, or turn off the heat and let it rest on the hot stove, for about one hour.
The dahl must have a fairly liquid consistency, almost like a soup and the lentils must have melted and almost totally lost their shape.
Serve very hot with a bowl of rice. Sprinkle with fresh cilantro, lemon juice and a spoonful of yoghurt. This dahl is even better after 24 hours.