Dal with Mushrooms and Peppers
December 7, 2011 • Spiritual Adventures
Dal or dried lentils is one of the staple foods throughout India, and there are innumerable variations, using different dals and different supporting ingredients. There are at least 10 major kinds of dal, available, whole or split. We use them very little in the west – chickpeas being one of the few that occasionally appears on American tables. Dal can be cooked on its own with just a few spices, or you can add almost any kind of vegetable to it to make it a little more substantial. I often cook it with spinach or dandelion greens which is a very beautiful and nutritious dish.
3/4 cup Moong Dal (see note)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 dried red chili
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 cup chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 cup chopped red pepper
salt to taste
1. Rinse the dal well under running water. The better you rinse it, the less chance it will boil over.
2. Put the dal in a saucepan with about 2 cups of water, bring to a boil and then turn down to a simmer.
3. Add the turmeric to the cooking dal. Watch carefully as the turmeric can sometimes cause the foam to thicken and boil over. Adjust the heat on the burner down to a point where it is gently bubbling but doesn’t boil over. Check occasionally that there is enough water in the pan and add more as necessary.
4. While the dal is cooking, take a small lidded saucepan and heat a tablespoon of oil.
5. When the oil is hot, throw in the black mustard seeds and dried red chili, and quickly cover with a lid, as the mustard seeds will start to pop.
6. After the popping dies down (30 seconds) turn down the heat, and add the minced garlic. Shake the pan well to mix.
7. When the garlic has just started to brown, add the onion.
8. Cook the onion for a few minutes over medium heat, then add the mushrooms and peppers. Cook until the vegetables are the way you like them.
9. When the dal has softened enough that you can mash it with a spoon, stir vigorously with a spoon or a whisk so that it has the consistency of pea soup.
10. Pour the dal into the pot with the onions, mushrooms and peppers (or vice versa,) add salt to taste and cook for a few more minutes to blend the flavors.
• This basic dish can be made from a number of the many Indian lentils, collectively called “dal.” This uses yellow Moong dal, which cooks relatively quickly, as does the pink or orange Toor Dal. Urad Dal, which is ivory colored, takes a little longer. For this dish, always use split lentils which have had their skins removed.
• Any Indian grocery store will have a wide array of dals to choose from. If there is not one in your area, you can often find red lentils or yellow lentils in a typical supermarket.
• Rather than adding the mustard seeds and chili to the oil at the beginning, a more traditional method is to cook the onion and other vegetables in some oil and, just before serving, pop the mustard seeds with the chili in a small amount of oil and pour it over the dish. There are even small, wok-like pans used especially for this purpose. The flavor is slightly different, with clearer notes of the mustard seeds coming through.
• To prevent the dal from boiling over while cooking, it is helpful to use a large spoon to scoop off the thick foam that comes off the dal. You should only need to do this once or twice and the danger will be reduced. That being said, I’ve found that it takes a long time before you learn to completely prevent dal from boiling over.
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