Dal with Kale-Coconut Tadka is delicious, simple and filling, comfort food that fits with any season. Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
People I am getting kinda old for general admission lines for concerts. I saw U2 (for the second time this summer) in Indianapolis last Sunday with my sister and a friend, and I am still sore and tired after sitting in line and on the floor for hours waiting for the show. Getting old sucks. Am I planning to do the GA line again? What do you think?:
It doesn’t matter how old I get. Having that kind of view does not get old (no pun intended) and I plan to wait in that GA line as long as they tour! And be sore and tired the whole following week.
Next time I am making the kids do it with me! (This past June we saw the tour in Pittsburgh from seats–awesome but just not the same.)
OK, about this dal with kale-coconut tadka! It is adapted from a Sri Lankan dal in Meera Sodha’s Fresh India: 130 Quick, Easy and Delicious Vegetarian Recipes for Every Day. I have no idea if the changes I made make it more or less Sri Lankan; I feel confident none of the changes would be shocking to an Indian cook (adding garam masala and chana dal, for example) but am not equally confident about whatever made it Sri Lankan to start with and the cookbook does not really explain. So I am just calling it a dal.
On a quick side note, I cannot recommend Meera Sodha’s Fresh India and Made in India: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen enough if you are interested in quirky and attractive Indian cookbooks with personality. They are high quality, lots of pictures, and have more than just the standard curries, as evidenced by this Sri Lankan dal.
Some of you might be wondering what the heck a tadka is. A tadka is a “tempering” of a dish, usually a dal or curry, by adding spices and aromatics roasted in oil at the end of cooking, rather than the beginning. Here in the west, we usually layer our dishes by starting with roasting (or tempering) aromatics like onion and garlic in oil–and that is true of many Indian dishes as well. But in India, they also have a culinary tradition where a lot of intense flavoring is added at the end, which is what we have here. Sometimes the tadka is served on top of the dish (as in the photographs above) and sometimes it is mixed into the dish (as in the photograph below, although I chose to also garnish with the tadka because it makes a prettier dish). In this particular dal, either choice is acceptable.
I took advantage of Sammy being at camp to make this dal with kale-coconut tadka because she loathes coconut flakes. Alas. The original recipe called for either fresh or dried shredded coconut–neither of which I had, but the flakes substituted just fine, as long as you like coconut. For someone like Sammy they are definitely too prominent.
I also took advantage of one of my new favorite pantry staples–organic frozen chopped kale. I rarely have greens around unless I shop for them for a particular dish. It just becomes a hassle, trying to make sure I use them before they wilt. Ever since I discovered Cascadian Farms sells chopped kale frozen (all the work done for you!!) I like keeping it on hand to slide into dishes. My family does not really love cooked greens, but if I add some, not a lot, to a strongly flavored dish like a curry, they will eat them. They were perfect for this tadka. No muss, no fuss, and a family willing to eat them. That’s a big win for me.
This dal is adapted from a Sri Lankan dal in Meera Sodha's Fresh India, but I have no idea if they would use garam masala in a Sri Lankan dal as I chose to. We like a lot of flavor in our food!
- 1 cup chana dal or yellow split peas
- 1 1/4 cups split red lentils
- 2 T virgin coconut oil, plus more in tadka
- 1 (Ceylon) cinnamon stick
- 4 whole cloves
- 2 large onions, thinly sliced
- 1 T minced garlic
- 1 T minced ginger
- 2 jalapeño chile peppers, seeds and membranes removed, minced
- 1 t ground cardamom
- 1/2 t ground turmeric
- 2 quarts water
- 1 15-oz can full fat coconut milk
- 1 t garam masala, plus more in tadka
- 1 t salt, to taste
- juice of one lime, plus more tadka
- 1 T virgin coconut oil
- 1 t dark mustard seeds
- reserved onion mixture from above
- 1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut (shreds are fine too, but be sure is UNsweetened)
- 1 10-oz bag frozen chopped kale (you can also use the equivalent fresh, be sure to remove stems before chopping)
- 1/2 t garam masala
- juice of 2 limes
Rinse the chana dal and lentils until the water runs clear. Cover with water and place to the side.
Heat the 2 tablespoons coconut oil over medium high heat in a heavy pot such as a Dutch oven. When the oil has melted, add the cinnamon stick and whole cloves.
Let the whole spices fry for a minute, until fragrant. Add the sliced onions with a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes, until the onions start to caramelize. Keep some water by the cooktop and splash a little into the pan if the onions start to scorch or stick.
Add the garlic, ginger and jalapeños. Stir and cook for another minute. Add the ground cardamom and cook, stirring, for another minute.
Remove 1/3 of the onion mixture to a small bowl and set aside.
Add the ground turmeric to the remaining onions and stir. Then drain the chana dal and lentils and add them to the pot with 2 quarts of water.
Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Let cook for 20-30 minutes--the red lentils will disintegrate and become creamy; the chana dal or split peas will become tender and creamy but probably still hold their shape. Depending on whether you use chana dal or split peas and depending on the age of the legumes, this could take a variable amount of time, so just keep checking. Add more water if the mixture starts to look dry.
When the legumes are tender and ready, add the coconut milk, salt and garam masala. Stir. Then add the juice of 1 lime and taste for more salt (be aware there will be a little salt in the tadka too). Take the dal off the heat and set aside while you prepare the tadka.
Heat the 1 tablespoon coconut oil over medium high heat in a medium sized skillet. Add the mustard seeds and partially cover the pan, allowing some steam to escape. Listen for the popping of the mustard seeds.
When the popping of the mustard seeds slows (much like popcorn), add the reserved onion mixture to the pan and mix in.
Add the chopped kale and coconut and stir for 1 minute. Add 1/4 cup of water. Cover the pan and reduce the heat to medium to let the kale steam.
Let the kale steam for 4 minutes. Add the lime juice and garam masala with a pinch of salt. Stir. If you are using raw kale that needs to steam further, replace the lid and let cook another 2 minutes. If you used frozen kale, leave uncovered and let some excess moisture cook off.
We served this 2 ways: some tadka ladled over the dal or some tadka mixed into the dal and then also ladled over the dal. Either way is fine!
Looking for a collage to pin?