So as you may be able to tell from my blog posts, I haven’t made lentils in quite a while and had actually never worked with red lentils before, just brown, yellow and green. Whenever I opened my cabinet, the red lentils stared at me, looking rather forlorn in their jar. I did however make a post a long while back about lentils, including preparation and recipes, and within it I had included a link to Ashley Adams’ Spicy Lentil Dahl recipe over in About.com in the “Dairy Free Cooking” section of the classic recipes. Her dahl really looked amazing, and I’ve been craving dahl for a while now. It was about time I made some, especially since I have everything I need to make such a delicious and rather inexpensive dish.
I have made some changes to her recipe, of course, but it all stirred up marvelously with a perfect blend of flavors and textures that left me quite sated. I can’t get over how well it turned out, especially as I thought some of the flavor combinations a bit odd for a curry. Surprise! Curry does just mean mixture after all. Feel free to boost the heat with chile peppers and if you like; just make sure the spiciness doesn’t detract from the aromatics. Please keep in mind that I doubled the original recipe to make the dish more complex in flavor on purpose; feel free to simplify your own version as you see fit.
Rather than boring tomato paste, I decided to break out the jar of green zebra heirloom tomatoes that I had been saving. Surprisingly enough I bought them on clearance at Sur la Tabl and only found out recently that they were grown at relatively local in the San Francisco Bay Area by Balakian Farms, which is now a fourth generation Armenian family-owned organic business. Balakian Farms also sells their tomatoes online and at local farmers markets in Fairfax, Marin (at the Civic Center), Mill Valley and San Francisco (at the Ferry Plaza); check out their schedule on the website.
Red Lentil Curry
Despite the strong flavors, the dahl can accompany several different sides. I served mine with mixed vegetables, salad and quinoa.
Yields: 12+ Servings
1 T Sesame Oil
1 T Garlic-Infused Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Medium Sweet Yellow or White Onion, peeled, diced
2 C Scallions, trimmed, sliced into 1/4″ pieces
6 Cloves Garlic, peeled, minced
3 T fresh ginger, peeled, minced or grated
6 C Salt-Free Vegetable Broth
1 C Dried Red Lentils, sorted, rinsed
1 C Dried Split Pigeon Peas (Arhar or Toor Daal), sorted, rinsed*
1 tsp Baking Soda
2 – 3 tsp Cumin Seeds
2 – 3 tsp Coriander Seeds
4 – 6 Green or Black Cardamon Pods
1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon Bark
2 tsp Ground Turmeric Root**
1/2 – 1 tsp Ground Cayenne Chili Pepper
1 16-oz Jar Balakain Farms Blended Organic Green Zebra Heirloom Tomatoes
Filtered Water, as necessary
3 tsp Sea Salt of Your Choice, to taste
In a large stock pot, saute the onions, garlic and ginger oil over medium heat until the yellow or white onion is translucent.
Grind the seeds together with a mortar and pestle. Remove the pod shells.
Stir the broth, lentils into the pot. Keeping an eye on the lentils, remove the starch foam as it comes to the broth’s surface. Once no more foam forms, mix in the ground spices except for the salt. Bring the dahl to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Once the lentils are tender, stir in the salt to taste, adding a teaspoon at a time. Stir in tomatoes. Adjust the flavors as needed. If necessary, add more water to achieve the desired consistency. Turn off the heat and let the curry cook on its own for a few minutes with the lid on to let the flavors meld a bit more.
*If you cannot find yellow lentils (not yellow split peas), you can double the amount of red ones.
**If you are substituting fresh peeled turmeric root for the dried ground turmeric, make sure to adjust the amounts accordingly.
Notes: For variety, you can also add in your favorite dark greens, such as carrot tops, chard, kale, collards, mustard greens or spinach. As this recipe makes big amount, I store mine in large mason jars in the coldest part of my refrigerator.