We had just returned home to Toronto from our trip to Paris this summer (I know, I know, I still have to share those photos with you in a blog post!). We had inhaled scoop after scoop of salted caramel and pink peach Berthillon flavours and these mounds of cloud-like meringues from Carton near my in-laws’ old residence in Paris. We had savoured a beautifully crisped skin of duck confit at Chez Dumonet, where the potatoes are fried in duck fat, but of course. And on our way home, we had a box of dark chocolate ganache squares to eat on the plane. Poor Turkish Delight was reaching for the chocolates again and again, but all he had was mother’s milk; no sugar for him at that age.
But in between all the duck fat, sugar and meat gluttony, we missed the simple and wholesome taste of dal; a Pakistani lentil dish. Spiced up if you want, eaten with rice, bread or just on its own with a blob of yoghurt – after a vacati0n on Paris, it was just the ticket for our homecoming dinner.
This dish is super easy to make because you probably have all these ingredients in your pantry. When I got back from the airport, I didn’t have any onions, so I omitted them. I used homemade garlic paste I had frozen in ice cube trays (bless you, Miss Masala, for this wonderful tip in your cooking session with Madhur Jaffrey – you all should do it, too) which I plonked in and I always have frozen kale, too. (If you don’t have kale where you live, you can use spinach as a substitute.)
Make some basmati rice and add ladlefuls of this on top. You’ll feel like you are right back home.
My kitchen scale’s batteries died when I was developing this recipe, which is why it is in cups. I shall post it in metric measurements within the next week.
Serves 4 as an appetiser or as a main course with rice or flatbread
*4 cups cold water, and additional hot water for topping up while it simmers
*1 cup red lentils (masoor or Lens culinaris) Here is a link which shows photos of masoor
*1 tsp cumin powder (zeera powder)
*½ tsp turmeric powder (haldi)
*½ teaspoon red chili pepper flakes (if you like it spicy, add 1 tsp)
*½ medium onion, sliced thin
*1 garlic clove
*¼ cup chopped frozen kale (I use the Whole Foods’ 365 brand, blue curled kale) or ½ cup fresh kale, very finely chopped (you want that “confetti effect”) Substitute for kale – spinach
*Salt to taste (I add 1 tsp, but start with ½)
*Place a medium-sized heavy bottomed pan (I use this 6 qt stockpot) on high flame and add water, lentils, cumin powder, turmeric powder, red pepper chili flakes, onion slices and garlic clove. When it comes to a boil, turn the flame down to medium
*Cover with lid, but not completely, so as to allow some steam to escape, otherwise the lentils will overflow onto your stovetop
*Allow lentils to simmer for 20 minutes, stirring every 5-7 minutes to make sure the lentils are not catching at the bottom of the bottom. You may have to top the lentils up with hot water to loosen it, if it looks too thick. Alternatively, if it looks too thin, allow it to cook down some more
*When the lentils are ready, they will look creamy
*Smoosh the garlic clove with the back of your ladle, it will blend right in
*Add kale and stir gently
*Serve with a trail of your favourite olive oil, scatter some sumac, pul biber (also known as crushed Aleppo pepper) or red cayenne pepper on top
*For a non-vegan version, add a dollop of Greek yoghurt