Masoor dal (aka whole brown or red lentil) is a staple in my home and very commonly eaten in Maharashtrian cuisine. When whole brown masoor dal is skinned and split, the lentils are orange in color and when cooked – they become yellow. Regardless, whole brown masoor dal remains an undisputed family favorite in my house.
Whole masoor dal doesn’t need to be soaked overnight & can be cooked easily on the stovetop (especially if you are wary of pressure cookers). It’s just perfect for entertaining and those last minute unexpected dinner guests.
The pressure cooker is absolutely indispensable in the Indian kitchen. It cooks dals, beans, lentils, vegetables, rice, chicken and lamb in mere minutes (as opposed to hours). The result is a fully cooked and tender final product that is cooked by a fast and healthy method. Pressure cookers can be a little intimidating at first, but I highly recommend using one especially for Indian meals. Pressure cookers will make your life easier and are a wonderful time saver. The newer modern pressure cookers are inexpensive and much safer to use. They are also easily available in most home and kitchen appliance stores.
I often serve this dish as a soup course, especially in the cold winter months. Either way, it’s a hearty and delicious meal whether you enjoy it as a soup or eat it with rice as a dal curry (known as “amti” in Marathi). Feel free to add some finely chopped spinach leaves (or your favorite vegetables) to this dish; it’s a yummy & delicious combination. If you like, this recipe could also be made using sprouted masoor dal.
MASOOR DAL (Whole Brown Lentil Curry or Soup)
2 cups whole masoor dal
1 large onion, finely diced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
1½” piece of ginger, peeled & finely grated
1 medium tomato, finely diced
3-4 dried red chilies, to taste
¼ tsp turmeric (haldi)
1 tsp ground cumin powder
½ tsp ground coriander powder
1 tsp kala/goda masala (or you can use garam masala)
¼ tsp red chili powder, to taste
salt & pepper, to taste
1 cup coconut milk
2 tbsp oil (vegetable or canola)
freshly chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish
If you are using dry lentils, you cook them easily on the stovetop. In a large soup pot on high heat, add 4 cups of water along with the masoor dal. Bring to a good boil, cover, reduce the heat to simmer and let cook until the dal is tender but not mushy (about 20-30 minutes). Do not overcook the dal. Alternatively, you could cook the dal in a pressure cooker if you wish. Set aside until needed.
In a large saucepan on medium high heat, add the oil. Now add the garlic & dried red chilies. Sauté for just a minute or so and then add the onions & ginger. Sauté until the onions have softened & become lightly browned, then add the tomatoes. Stir fry until the tomatoes have broken down & then add the spices (turmeric, ground cumin powder, ground coriander powder, kala masala, red chili powder, salt and pepper). Mix well to combine all of the ingredients. After about another minute or so, carefully add the cooked masoor dal along with any cooking liquid. Stir & add in the coconut milk. If necessary, add a little more water as needed. Now simmer on low for about 4-5 more minutes until all the ingredients have come together nicely. Garnish with the cilantro leaves & sprinkle a little pinch of kala masala right on the top just before serving.
How To Sprout Beans, Lentils and Dals:
Only whole lentils, beans and dals can be sprouted. Rinse your dal carefully under cool running water. In a large bowl, soak the dal overnight in enough water to cover completely. Drain, rinse well and transfer the dal back to the bowl and cover with a slightly damp cheesecloth (or dish towel). Store in a dark warm area. Check periodically to make sure there is enough moisture, but you should see lovely sprouts within 24 hours.