If there is one meal that will make you fall in love with Indian food, it’s Daal and Naan.
Daal (also spelled Dal/Dahl/Dhal) is a stew of red lentils, cooked with beautifully vibrant spices until lovely and thick, and Naan is the ever-popular soft and chewy Indian flatbread that you surely must have tried if you’ve ever been to an Indian restaurant. The two make the most perfect pair, and serving with some mango chutney just takes this to a whole other level of deliciousness.
The whole meal is a comforting and cozy affair, perfect for a chilly evening and easy enough to make at home with minimal planning-ahead.
I have decided to do this over two posts, to dedicate a whole post just for the Naan, with clear step-by-step photos and instructions so that a) this post doesn’t get SUPER long and b) nobody has any excuses for fearing the Naan.
So, here I will only talk about the lovely Daal.
In general, I adore pulses; beans, lentils, chickpeas…I think I owe that to my Egyptian blood. Egyptian cuisine is FULL of vegetarian meals, heavily based on pulses and legumes, and I have a profound appreciation for their humble versatility and endless benefits.
I am positive I will be sharing plenty of our traditional Egyptian dishes, such as Taameyya (Egyptian Falafel), Fuul (stewed Fava beans), Halabessa (spicy chickpeas with tomato broth) and Koshary (our most popular street food) in the future…especially that Ramadan is just around the corner, and I always find myself craving these traditional foods more during that holy month of fasting, family and feasts. Not only do they provide the slow-burning fuel perfect for fasting, but they also make me feel like I’m back home with family and ease the homesickness that usually lingers around more heavily during that extraordinary month.
For now, lets stick to the glorious Daal. I have made it countless times, and it has become a favourite of ours. Each time I make it, it comes out a tad different than the time before because I rarely measure ingredients for dishes like this.
We all know that baking and desserts need precision, and I always stick strictly to the recipe for those, and there is definitely a certain comfort in the predictability associated with exact measurements…but I also love how forgiving savoury stews and spicy dishes like this one are; it’s pretty hard to mess them up. The more you make them, the more they evolve and become truly yours, and the more comfortable you become with making them free-style without needing to look at a recipe.
A few great things about this dish:
- It is great for feeding large crowds; make a ridiculously large batch in the morning and just reheat when it is time to serve.
- It actually gets better when you reheat it.
- It freezes SO well if you have any leftovers…not that I’ve EVER had that problem. (what ARE leftovers??)
- It requires approximately ZERO skills to make. Results are insanely complex and delicious.
- Lentils are incredibly cheap and widely available. Great for a filling vegetarian meal where you will not for one moment miss the meat.
- SUPER healthy. SUPER DUPER. (Who says super duper anymore? Ew. I’m sorry).
Make some of this incredibly quick and easy Wholewheat Naan Bread alongside, and you’ve got the perfect medium to lap up this gorgeously aromatic and spicy lentil dish.
So…what are you waiting for? Get your lentil on!
- • 1 ½ cups red lentils, washed and drained
- • 1 ½ tbsp. ghee (‘samna’ in Arabic)
- • 1 large onion, finely diced (I like to use a food processor)
- • 3 cloves garlic, minced
- • 1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
- • 2 small red chillies or ½ tsp. dried red chilli flakes (optional)
- • 1 tbsp. curry powder
- • 1 tsp. ground coriander
- • 1 tsp. ground turmeric
- • ½ tsp. ground cumin
- • ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- • 1 large tomato, finely diced
- • 4-5 cups water
- • salt & pepper to taste
- In a large pot over low-medium heat, add the ghee to melt. Add the onion and cook, stirring until very soft and translucent and slightly yellow, about 6-8 minutes.
- Add the garlic, ginger and fresh chilli if using (if using dried red chilli flakes, add them later with the spices) and cook for 1 minute, until just fragrant.
- Add the spices; curry, coriander, turmeric, cumin, cinnamon and dried red chilli flakes (if using). Stir for about 30 seconds.
- Add the tomato and the lentils, stir for a couple of minutes until nicely coated with everything.
- Add 4 cups water, bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook, partially covered for about 20-30 minutes until lentils are very soft and the stew is thick, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking and adding a little extra water if needed. Season to taste. Serve with Naan and mango chutney.