Masoor Dal – Brown and Orange lentils
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I’ve written a lot about Indian lentils in my previous posts & recipes, simply because it is honestly such a big part of the Indian cuisine. To write this post, I went back and did some reading on Lentils and came across some really interesting facts. Did you know that the word Lens comes from the word Lentil, whose shape it resembles? Ain’t that cool?
I have personally noticed that the brown lentil is more popular in western cooking than any other lentil, as it is commonly used by chefs in recent years on TV shows to make salads, soups and even as a healthy side dish. As is with cooking on Television, some elements and methods become fashionable with chefs from time to time, and brown lentils were too, for a while.
The Masoor dal also known as Brown lentil, and when polished, orange lentil, is prepared for the most part, the same way as the Yellow daal is. The biggest difference though between the two is cooking times. When soaked in water for the same amount of time, Masoor dal takes roughly double the time to cook than Yellow toor dal. Ofcourse cooking time also depends on how you want to eat it. If you plan to eat it with Roti or Naan, you’d want to make sure you cook it to the point where each grain retains it’s shape and firmness. If brown lentils are to be enjoyed with rice, you have to cook it to a mushier stage so that it blends well together with the spices and vegetables, to result in a thick soup-y texture. In the latter case, the brown lentil is cooked with a handful of polished brown lentil, also known as orange lentil.
What I appreciate about the way Masoor dal is prepared in the Indian cuisine, is the amount of herbs and medicinal seeds that go into it. Because the dal itself has a very earthy taste that may not be palatable to everyone, the herbs and seeds add an unique layer of aroma and flavor. I add aromatics such as curry leaves, fenugreek seeds, cumin seeds and black mustard seeds when making the dal.
In my home, everyone likes the mushier variety of Masoor dal. To make the drier, firmer version of the dal, simply cook with lesser water and for lesser time.
To make dal for 2-3 people, you will need:
- A pressure cooker or large pot
- 1 cup brown masoor dal
- A big handful of orange masoor dal
- 4-5 tbs vegetable oil
- A pinch of fenugreek seeds (optional – EXCELLENT for digestive and immune system)
- 2 curry leaves
- 1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
- 1 tbs ginger & garlic paste
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1tbs Dhania-Zeera powder (use 1/2 tbs each of Coriander & Cumin powder if you don’t get both as a mixture)
- 1/2 tbs chili powder
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- Fresh chopped coriander leaves / cilantro leaves for garnishing
- Lemon juice
- Wash and soak the 2 dals together for about 45 minutes. If you do not have a pressure cooker, soak the dals overnight in a large bowl with about 2 inches water above the level of dals
- In a pressure cooker or pot, heat the oil. When heated, add the curry leaves, cumin seeds, mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. When they begin to crackle, add the onions. Be careful not to burn the cumin seeds.
- Cook onions on medium heat till they are a light brown and then add the ginger-garlic paste. Mix well and cook for a minute or so
- Add the chopped tomatoes and allow to cook till the mixture gets soft. While the tomatoes cook, drain the water from the soaked dals. Reserve the water for reuse in the cooking. It contains tons of water-soluble nutrients from the lentils.
- Now add all the dry spices and mix well
- Finally, add the drained dals and mix well
- Now add water as per your requirement
- If you want the mushier version, add about 2 cups of reserved or additional liquid to the dal and cook in the pressure cooker for about 4-5 whistles
- If you want the firmer version, add about 1 cup water and cook in pressure cooker for about 3 whistles
- If cooking in a pot, adjust water while cooking and cook till the dals have reached desired firmness / softness
- Once cooked, add salt to taste, and whisk together with an egg beater, if you are making the soup-y dal
- If making the drier version, burn off any excess water on high heat
- Garnish with lemon juice and about 3/4 cup of chopped cilantro