Sunday, 21 December 2014

Masoor Dal with Kale, Mint and Cilantro

Masoor Dal with Kale, Mint and Cilantro

I will confess to substituting meals lately with Christmas gingerbread and nuts-and-bolts.  I am beginning to crave a vitamin, or two.  While lentils and kale don’t sound like a fair comparison to gingerbread pastries, they too can be made delicious with enough ginger, garlic, chilies and perhaps a little butter.  After all, we can’t live on just Christmas treats.

The spice blend for this dal has its own complexity, but the addition of tons of fresh mint and cilantro kick this dal up many notches.  This cooks within the hour, and can easily serve four to six, especially with basmati rice or chappatties.

2 cups masoor dal
water to wash, then fresh water to cover

5 Kashmiri dried chilies
Gently roast till they barely smoke.
1 tablespoon cumin seed
1 tablespoon coriander seed
1 teaspoon fennel seed
1 teaspoon black ajwain (black celery seed)
1 teaspoon fenugreek seed
3 cloves
1 teaspoon black peppercorns
2 black cardamom pods, well bashed, husks removed
1 green cardamom pod, bashed, husk removed
1 small flake mace
3 pieces cassia 

1 teaspoon ground turmeric
Wash and remove mint stems!

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 extra teaspoon cumin seed
1 large red onion, sliced into thin but short pieces
2 inches ginger, matchsticked
1 teaspoon extra oil, ghee or butter
1 can tomatoes (28 ounce size)
7 garlic cloves
2 fresh chilies, or more to taste
4 kale leaves, ribbed and chopped
3 cups fresh mint
3 cups fresh cilantro
salt to taste

Wash the dal till the water comes clear.  Cover with fresh water, and bring to a boil.  Lower to simmer and cook till soft.  Masoor Dal, the orange lentils, cook up in about fifteen to twenty minutes. 

Chop cilantro leaves with tender stems.
While the dal is beginning to cook, roast the first set of whole spices in a large pot, (but reserve the extra cumin seeds.)  When they start to smoke and fill your nose with fragrance, pluck out the cassia pieces, and brush the rest of the roasted spices into a grinder, adding the turmeric.  Set aside to cool.

Add oil to the big pot, and return cassia to the pot.  Set on medium high, and when the cassia starts to sizzle a bit, add the remaining cumin seed.  Let that sizzle for a few moments, then add the onion and ginger.  Turn heat down to medium, stirring, and let cook till onion is translucent and golden. 

The spices need the extra bit of oil, ghee or butter.
Grind the warm spices to a powder.  Add them to the onions, with a bit more oil, ghee or butter, if you prefer.  Stir and cook the spices for two or three minutes.  In the meantime, place canned tomatoes, garlic cloves and fresh chilies into a blender and buzz till smooth.  With a closefitting lid nearby, pour the tomatoes into the onion mix and quickly cover. 

Let cook till it sounds like the furious boiling has settled a bit.  Carefully lift cover and add the cooked dal.  Add the kale, stir, and cook another twenty minutes.  This is a good time to wash the mint and pluck the leaves from the stems.  The stems are too wiry to cook, so remove them carefully. The cilantro needs a good wash.  Trim just the nubby ends of the cilantro stems.  Chop the cilantro, leaves and tender stems.  

Once the kale is almost tender enough to eat, add the mint leaves.  Cook about five to ten minutes then add the chopped cilantro.  Taste for salt and add now.  Cook for just a few minutes, to keep cilantro as green as possible.

Serve with basmati rice or chappatties, and contratulate yourself for rescuing yourself from malnutrition.  After eating silly junk for several days in a row, this will taste magnificent.  But don’t get too self-righteous, because next up will be my Christmas Crack recipe, made with unusual ingredients, of course. 

This will tide you over till you get into the Christmas Crack...


  1. I have never mixed so many herbs with dal..must have been so tasty!

  2. Srivalli, it seemed like a slightly crazy thing to do, but I'd bought the mint and cilantro for a mint chutney that I forgot to make for a party. I didn't want them to go to waste, so tried this, and couldn't believe how good it tasted. Thanks for visiting and commenting!