Joey and I love foods from the near east - their rich, spicy flavors leave us eager for more while their simplicity is comforting and filling. When we were living in Kathmandu, Nepal a few years back, we discovered that dhal (a dish made from lentils) is the first dish that a Nepali person eats at about 8 months old. They proceed to eat variations of Dahl for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for the rest of their lives. This particular recipe is delightfully creamy with the addition of coconut milk. Lentils are a low-fat source of protein, zinc, and iron. The lime juice, while rich in vitamin C, also helps absorb the iron. Bulgur adds a bit of fiber and B vitamins. While foods of this genre generally call for a wide array of spices, once you have them in your pantry, you can make hundreds of different dishes from India and Pakistan to Turkey and Syria.
Recommended eastern spices: gram masala (my absolute favorite!), turmeric - ground, cumin - seeds and ground, coriander seeds, curry paste - yellow, red, and green, chili powder. There are others, of course, but these are the basics.
Makes fantastic leftovers.
- 2 tablespoons oil (I used olive)
- 1 large onion, finely chopped or grated
- 1 - 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped (depends on how much you like garlic)
- 1 carrot, roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
- 2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
- 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
- 2 teaspoons ground turmeric
- 1 teaspoon mild chili powder
- 1 teaspoon gram masala
- 3/4 cup split red lentils
- 1/4 cup bulgur
- 1 2/3 cup water
- 1 can coconut milk
- 5 tomatoes, chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- juice of two limes
- Optional accompaniments: plain yogurt, chipatis or naan.
- In a large pot, heat the oil. Sauté the onion until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, carrot, cumin, mustard, and ginger. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring until the seeds being to pop.
- Mix in the turmeric, chili, and gram masala. Cook and stir 1 minute to 'mingle' the flavors.
- Add the lentils water, coconut milk, and tomatoes. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Stir in the lime juice and the cilantro. Taste to check the seasoning - add more as needed. I added an additional drizzle of olive oil. Cook an additional 15 minutes, until lentils are tender.
- To serve, sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Also delicious serve with hot flat breads (chipatis or naan) and plain yogurt (thick, Greek style is best)