Daal is a staple Indian comfort food. This thick and creamy vegetarian friendly dish has a hint of citrus through the addition of kaffir lime leaves. It’s super easy to whip up and goes great paired with rice or you could try my favourite way of sipping it on its own from an over sized mug – it is literally like a hug in a mug. If you’ve checked out my Lebanese rashta soup or vegetarian Harira soup you will know that I am a huge fan of lentils and legumes. And dal is probably my favourite lentil dish out there.
Me and my family were all struck with the flu about a week and a half ago. It was the first time in a long time that I had been really sick and boy did I feel it! I will admit that I did turn into a bit of a whiney baby for a little while though it did make me a lot more grateful for being in good health 90% of the time, alhamdulillah. In that time I also took a break from technology as I literally had no physical energy for it, but it has been harder than I thought to get back into my routine of things. Also, all my brain cells seem to have withered away with the flu? Even writing this blog post feels like I am wading through cotton wool. Coherent sentences? I have no idea what those are…
During bouts of illness and the recovery period after where food still kind of tastes weird, simple yet wholesome dishes like dal are comforting and warming. There is nothing like a steamy hot bowl of dal on a cold and rainy day to warm you down to your toes.
There are a lot of variations of dal out there on the internet. In this recipe which is based on a traditional and very simple Bengali method. You just boil the lentils with turmeric and onions, and then at the end temper the lentils (bagar as we Bengalis call it) with fried garlic and chilli. Using butter or ghee adds an extra level of creaminess to the dish.
I added a little kaffir lime leaves to the lentils for some citrus freshness. I’d had the leaves sitting around for months and just couldn’t figure out what to use it for. Finally one day I thought, why no try it with some daal (or dhayl as we Bangladeshis call it)? The slightly tartness would be a great contrast to the creaminess.
Maybe it was because I used dried leaves, but I couldn’t actually taste much of the kaffir lime leaves despite using up the whole package. To add some extra sourness, I then added some lemon juice. I use only about 1-2tbsp but you can of course add more according to your preferences.
I only used red lentils for this recipe as that’s what we had in the cupboard. Red lentils are great because they are so quick to cook without needing a pressure cooker or boiling the lentils for long periods of time. You could mix up the red lentil by combining any other varieties you have at home, but I think it tastes great just with red lentils.
- 1 and a half cup red lentils
- 6 cups water
- Half onion, grated or pureed
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1 bay leaf
- 4 green whole chillies
- 8 kafir lime leaves
- 1-2 Tbsp lemon juice
- Salt to season
- Handful coriander, chopped
- 1 tbsp butter/ghee
- 4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
- 4 dried red chillies
- Wash and pick through the red lentils. Add the lentils to a saucepan along with water, turmeric, onion, bay leaf, green chillies and 1tsp salt and place it on a medium heat on the stove. Stir and leave the dal to slowly cook for about 30 minutes until the lentils have cooked through and have softened.
- Once cooked through, add the lime leaves and lemon juice and leave to cook for a further 10-15 minutes.
- Whilst waiting for the dal to cook, in a small frying pan or skillet, add butter and leave it to melt and heat up. Add the sliced garlic and the dried chilli until the garlic starts turning golden. Then pour this garlic mixture into the dal and stir through.
- Season with salt to taste and then garnish with coriander and serve.