I would say my first encounter with dal isn’t your typical tale.  It was in my sophomore year of college and I was getting ready to enjoy a semester abroad in London, England.  It was a chilly evening and I was home from school for the weekend, when my father presented me with a large, fragrant pot of a yellow soup-like substance.  He told me he was preparing me for Indian dishes I might come across when I was overseas. This dish was Dal (the Hindi word for lentils and dried beans), which he served over basmati rice. I instantly fell in love and so began my infatuation with Indian food.

I will tell you that much of my semester was spent basking in the assortment of Indian “take-away” restaurants where I sampled my share of samosas, saags and masalas.

As much as I love the rich, yet delicate flavors of Indian food, I will admit, when it comes to cooking it, I am a complete novice. After a recent Indian meal with friends (at a restaurant) I decided I wanted to try my hand at cooking something at home.  So I said to myself, “Why not begin, where it began….with a dal, of course!”

I searched several sites, hunting for a recipe that sounded simple, seemed similar to my father’s dish, and incorporated enough of the traditional Indian spices my palate was craving.  As usual I tinkered with the recipe and came up with my own modified version.  I served this over brown basmati rice with plenty of cilantro for garnish.

Yellow Dal
Serves 6

2 cups yellow dal (lentils) (I used moong dal)
2 ½ teaspoons Aleppo pepper
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
6 tablespoons ghee or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 large white onion, peeled and minced
3 tablespoons grated ginger
8-10 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 large jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 large tomato, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1 bunch of cilantro, for ample garnish

Place the dal in a large bowl, fill with water, and soak for about an hour.  Drain thoroughly. 

In a large pot combine 7 cups of water with the soaked, drained dal, Aleppo pepper, turmeric, and 1 tablespoon of ghee. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the dal is very soft. Remove from the heat and set aside.

In a medium skillet, heat the remaining 5 tablespoons of ghee over medium-high heat. Add the cumin and mustard seeds. When they start to sizzle, add the onion and cook for approximately 8 minutes. 

Add the ginger, garlic, jalapeno, and tomato. Cook, stirring occasionally, for another 8 minutes or until the tomato is very soft.

Add the ginger mixture to the dal and simmer for 20 minutes.  Add salt to taste and serve over rice of your choosing.  Garnish with cilantro.


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