Daal is my favourite item to order off the menu in any restaurant. I love tasting the way different people can take this simple lentil and create such a robust, healthy and delicious meal. It’s delicious, gluten free and so simple to make!
My mom rarely cooked meals with meat or chicken when I grew up. In fact, meals were pretty simple. We ate a lot of vegetable curries and we had a lot of daal (also spelt as Dahl and dal). My job was to sift through them to pick out any small pebbles from them. I still remember the big silver pan that my mom would give me. The collection of cleaned lentils would grow bigger as I gently moved them across the pan and away from the unsifted lentils.
`What is Daal?
Daal originates from the Sanskrit word meaning lentils. There are so many different varieties of lentils you can use. For this version, I used red lentils. However, you can use split yellow peas, mong daal, chana daal or do a combination of a few. All of them are super delicious and add their own unique twist to this aromatic dish. Let me know which lentils you try 🙂
Nutritional Benefits of Daal
They may be tiny but they are so packed with nutrient!
- Lentils are a complete source of protein
- It’s loaded with beneficial fibre
- it helps promote heart health and helps lower cholesterol as well as reduce your chances for heart disease
- Last, but certainly not least, it helps strengthen bones and encourages bone development!
As with any grains or lentils, soaking is a must for me. I find, despite me eating lentils my whole life, it can be uncomfortable and cause bloating. If you do have a couple of hours before cooking, I recommend soaking your lentils. It can help with digestion and it also improves your body’s ability to absorb vital nutrients like calcium, zinc, iron and, of course, protein. Here’s a resource that goes deeper with why soaking is beneficial!
I tried out this daal the other day, and it was amazing!! The aromatic spices, creamy lentils, and caramelised onions, ahhh so much depth of flavour! This is a must add for your dinner rotation, I can’t wait for you to try it!
How to make a curry base
This curry base is super versatile and can used in any dish! You can even batch cook it ahead of time and freeze for easy curries during the week. The main components are:
- Whole chilis (optional but recommended) – split a green or red chili and let it fry in the hot oil. You can remove it halfway through cooking or let it infuse – depending on how spicy you want the dish.
- Whole spices – Peppercorns, cloves, cardamom, cinnamon sticks, and cumin seeds. A couple of each of them does the trick for extra aroma and depth.
- Onions – let them caramelise into the oil until browned for a rich curry
- Tomatoes – adds bulk and creates the base – roast them for extra flavour!
- Tomato paste – another flavour booster for a yummy thick curry
- Fresh garlic – fresh is the best! Adds a yummy flavour with a slight kick
- Ground spices – salt, turmeric, cumin, coriander, and garam masala add depths of flavour and bring the dish all together
- Garnishes – dried fenugreek, fresh coriander, and a squeeze of lemon to make the dish pop with freshness
Start off with hot oil in a pan and add your chilis and whole spices until they are fragrant:
Add in the chopped onions and let them brown:
Add in the tomatoes, tomato paste, and spices and let it all cook down:
Once it is all cooked, you can choose to blend it or keep it chunky. I switch it up between the 2, all depends on whichever you prefer.
At this point your curry base is ready to use. Add in your cooked protein and enjoy! You can also freeze it into portions for handy meals prepared for the week!
The sizzling tarka
Also called Tadka! We all know that we can make a dish different from someone else making the same dish in their kitchen! But having a tarka drizzled onto your daal really makes it unique and heightens the flavours to another level! This is something to do right at the end before serving your curry. It’s a delicious addition to not only this daal curry, but any other curry dish you make!
- In a pan, heat some oil on medium high heat
- Once it is hot, add in slit chilies and a couple curry leaves
- Let that sizzle for a minute or 2 and pour it all on top of the curry
How to serve
There are many ways to enjoy the daal curry. Firstly deciding if you want it to be a thinner sauce or a thicker sauce. You can add more water and adjust the seasonings if you’d like it to be more a thinner soup. You could cook it for longer and have a thicker sauced lentil. I also love my daal “chunkier” rather than having it blended. Having said that, you can take an immersion blender and blend your daal before you add your tarka.
Here are some of my favourite ways to garnish:
- As is in a bowl – squeeze some more lemon on top and enjoy hot
- On top of a bed of basmati rice
- With some delicious naan
How do you eat your daal?
If you make this daal curry or any other recipes of mine please be sure to tag me @sculptedkitchen! Or leave a review or comment below! Thank you!
Other delicious curries to try
- 1 cup red lentils Rinse and soak for 30 minutes
- 2 tbsp oil
- 1 green chili slitted down the middle
- 3 whole black peppercorns
- 3 whole cloves
- 3 cardamom pods
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 onion diced
- 3 tomatoes blended
- 2 tsp tomato paste
- 1 tsp garlic fresh, or 2 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp cumin powder
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tbsp fenugreek leaves dried
- 1/2 lemon juiced
- coriander fresh
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 green chilies slitted down the middle
- 5 curry leaves
- Rinse and soak the red lentils and set aside in a bowl
- In a big pan, heat oil on medium heat
- Add in slit green chili and all the whole spices. Let it toast for 1-2 minutes until fragrant and start to sizzle
- Mix in fresh garlic and onions. Saute until onions are soft and browned
- Mix in blended tomatoes and the rest of the spices. Let it simmer on low until it thickens a bit
- Mix in tomato paste and dried fenugreek leaves. Let it cook for 5-10 minutes
- In a separate pot, boil lentils until soft (10-15 minutes)
- While that is blending, remove the whole spices from the curry base and blend until smooth
- When the lentils are cooked, strain the water and add the lentils to the blended curry. Add a splash of liquid if necessary
- Let it all cook together
- When serving, add in lemon juice, fresh coriander, and hot tarka. Enjoy over a bowl of basmati rice or naan.
- In a small pan, heat oil
- When it is hot, add in the slit chilies and curry leaves
- Let it sizzle for a minute and pour onto the daal
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