Indian Dhaal / Warm lentil stew

Lentils are the primary source of proteins for vegetarian. Indians use lentils in all the preparations – be it soup, entree, sides, starter or dessert. Lentils are commonly used in a dish called dhaal. Dhaals can be made from lentils and legumes. Also remember that it isn’t necessary that all dhaals be prepared with lentils alone. A thick, mushy stew can be called as dhaal. Some dhaals can be heavily seasoned while some will be mildly spiced.
I come from Southern part of India and most people known to me cook with yellow split peas called toor dhal / thuvaram paruppu. South Indians make sambar and rasam with it. In most homes back home, lentils are cooked in a pressure cooker to save time and gas. My mom typically adds couple of garlics, a pinch of asafoetida and a teaspoon of turmeric powder to the lentils while cooking. Since lentils can cause bloating, she adds garlic and asafoetida to reduce flatulence and turmeric powder acts as an antiseptic. With the influence of various cooking shows on TV (like Khanna Khazanna, Mirch masala) , my mom over the years started to make Northern Indian dishes like dhaal with red lentils, rajma masala and dhaal makani (red kidney beans and black grams). Once I started to live alone, the easiest thing to fix for singles/students are stews with lentils and vegetables. It may be eaten with rice and a pickle by its side or with roti or can be drank as soup. Since I cook it in a pressure cooker, I dump on the ingredients and cook for few whistles. The process even more simpler and easy that even novice can whip it no time.
Years ago I saw pretty looking red lentils (orange colored lentils) in the grocery store. I brought home a packet with a hope to cook a dhaal that will have this beautiful sunset color but to my dismay, the dhaal looked yellow like any other dhaal dish. Lesson learned: Red lentils doesn’t make your dhaal look red or orange. I know many of my friends who had the same doubt.Lentils are rich in fiber. Fiber rich foods can lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar. High fiber foods are also refereed to as diabetic foods. Any whole grains will have low glycemic index (GI of 26-30) than refined/processed grains.I have exploring on bringing Indian inspired vegetarian meals for South beach dieters. This lentil preparation is one such dish which I have been serving for breakfast. They are hearty, filling and definitely a power packed start for the day. I have used red lentils in this preparation.Good news is that I had made this dhaal with zero oil.
Masoor dhal – A stew with red lentils
Recipe: Self
Serves 4-6

2 cups red lentils
2 Thai green chiles – slit
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes (optional)
1 cup red onions- finely chopped
1 tomato – finely chopped
1/2 tablespoon fresh ginger- minced
2 garlic cloves – minced
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1/2 teaspoon red chili powder
1 tablespoon coriander powder
6 cups water
Salt to taste, about 1 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 cup fresh cilantro – chopped
1 tablespoon garam masala
Juice of one lemon
Special equipment
Pressure cooker with a whistle
1/4 cup avocados – cubed
1/4 cup cucumbers – cubed
1. Rinse and clean the red lentils in running tap water. Drain the water and set aside.
2. Switch on the stove. Place the base of the pressure cooker and add the red lentils, onions, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, green chillies, red chili flakes, spice powders (turmeric, chili and coriander powder) and water. Mix well to combine and pressure cook them for 8-10 whistles. If you are cooking on a regular cooking pan, cook for 45-55 minutes until they are cooked through.
3. Switch off the flame and let the pressure settle down. After about 15-20 minutes, remove the whistle and open the pan. Add garam masala, cilantro, salt, lemon juice and stir well. Serve hot in warm bowls. Garnish with cubes of avocado or cucumbers or even a dollop of fat free sour cream or yogurt will do wonders.
1. You can drink how much ever soup you want. That’s the great thing about South beach diet. This soup is my breakfast during phase 1.
2. Phase 2 & 3 dieters, the dhaal can be served with brown rice/ quinoa/ barley/ buckwheat. Make it a hearty meals by adding lots of veggies as a side.
3. For women with gestational diabetes, this stew with red lentils (masoor dhal) can be eaten with quinoa or barley. It is not a good idea to avoid carbohydrates during pregnancy as the growing baby needs carbs for his/her brain development. So please remember to eat every meal with healthy/good carbs.
4. Lentils are good for weight management and importantly they can be digested easily.
5. You could also add vegetables like beans, cauliflower, carrots and peas

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  1. Your posts have such a positive energy that I almost immediately want to go the healthy way… I somehow have to start it… đŸ™‚

  2. wow.. i cook this when i am not in a mood to cook elaborate meals.. hubby dear likes to have rotis with this daal.. next time i am gonna try cooking in a pressure cooker..

  3. Hi Vijitha,

    A hearty warm soup full of the goodness of lentils… Would like to have it anytime of the day!! đŸ™‚

    Also, there is an event going on in my space – Healthy Morsels – Pregnancy. Your dish would be a perfect entry for the event. Would you please like to share with us?

  4. I can definitely picture a huge chunk of crusty bread into that bowl for dinner tonight, considering the drab rainy weather we have. Never thought of having such a hearty stew for breakfast – this'll make a lovely weekend brunch in our house!

  5. i love boiled daal. I just add some roasted and the crushed cumin some mint leaves and awsm! Will try this version next time.

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