Dal Kheema is a wonderful protein-packed combination of dal and minced meat. Traditionally, this dish is made using ground lamb but I have made it with ground chicken instead. You are more than welcome to use any ground meat of your choosing to make this dish.
“Dal” is the collective Indian/Hindi term for lentils, beans, pulses or legumes. In India, the sheer variety & types of dals available is fantastic. Dals are eaten throughout the sub-continent and are a large part of the Indian diet. In a largely vegetarian country, they are often the primary source of protein. They are also highly economical & budget friendly – one cup of uncooked dal can easily feed up to 4-6 people when cooked.
Now the dal varieties that work best in this dish are either masoor dal or chana dal. Masoor dal (aka whole brown or red lentils) and chana dal (aka split yellow Bengal gram dal) are both quick cooking dals. Puy lentils (hearty French green lentils) also work very well in this dish.
DAL KHEEMA (Lentils with Spicy Minced Chicken)
1 lb ground chicken
1 cup dal (masoor dal, chana dal or Puy lentils), soaked in enough water to cover for 30-45 minutes
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, finely minced
1” piece of fresh ginger, peeled & finely minced
2-3 small green Thai chilies, split in half lengthwise (to taste)
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1 tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 tsp ground cumin powder
1 tsp ground coriander powder
1 tsp garam masala
˝ tsp red chili powder (to taste)
salt & pepper, to taste
1 cup of your favorite vegetables*
2 tbsp of oil (vegetable or canola)
freshly chopped cilantro leaves for garnish
In a medium size pot on medium high heat, add about 2 cups water along with the dal. Bring to a good boil, cover, reduce the heat to simmer and let cook until the dal is tender but not mushy (about 12-15 minutes). Alternatively, you could cook the dal in a pressure cooker if you wish. Using a large spoon gently mash the dal. Set aside until needed.
In a large deep skillet or wok on medium high heat, add the oil. When hot, add the onion and sauté until lightly browned. Next add the garlic, ginger & green chilies. Stir fry for just a few minutes and then add the spices (turmeric, ground cumin powder, ground coriander powder, garam masala, red chili powder, salt & pepper). Stir well to combine all of the ingredients and sauté for 2-3 minutes. Next, add the ground chicken and mix well. Keep stirring until the chicken is thoroughly broken up and fully cooked through. The chicken should be aromatic and nicely browned. Now add in the vegetables, stir & let them cook for a few minutes before adding the tomatoes & the cooked dal. Mix well to combine, reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer gently for 5-6 minutes. Garnish with freshly chopped cilantro leaves and serve with fresh chapatis and fragrant Basmati rice.
*You can add vegetables such as spinach, corn, bell peppers, carrots, green peas… Please note that if you are adding spinach or green peas, I recommend adding them just a few minutes before serving. They only need a few minutes to warm through, that way they will keep their lovely vibrant green color.