Thursday, December 26, 2013

"Meaty" flavor in a plant-based red lentil dal

Red lentils, boosted by browned onions and plenty of Indian spice, make about as “meaty” a meatless dish as I can imagine. Filling and heart-warming, this is one of the most enjoyable variations on Indian dal (lentil soup) that I’ve come across yet.

Red lentil and onion coconut dal
(serves two)


1/2 cup red lentils
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1/3 onion, finely chopped
1/3 red bell pepper cut into 1/2 inch dice
2-4 ounces chopped green chiles (I used canned)
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
Dried red-pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tablespoon Madras curry powder
1/6 teaspoon cinnamon
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups water
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
fresh cilantro and lime wedges for serving

  1. Measure out the lentils and rinse them very well, picking over to remove any stones or foreign objects. Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the peanut oil in a large saute pan and add the onions, red bell pepper, green chiles and red and black pepper and cook for 5 minutes until the onions have softened and start to brown.  Add the garlic, spices and tomato paste and continue to cook for 2-3 more minutes until the mixture is  fragrant.  
  3. Add the lentils and water and cook uncovered at medium heat for 15 to 20  minutes, adding the coconut milk for the last few minutes of cooking and stirring in the lemon juice and salt to taste at the end.  
  4. Check seasoning and serve, topped with fresh cilantro and extra limes on the side.
Modified from a recipe found at the “Scaling Back” blog, “Getting Small in a Super-Sized World.”