It is amazing how long it can take you to get around to trying a recipe. Many fall by the wayside (hopefully less so now that I have started To Try Tuesdays which will be back next Tuesday, so look for it then), but some stick in my head, no matter how long it takes for me to get to them. Such is the case with Tigers & Strawberries‘ Pumpkin Masoor Dal, published back in September 2008.
There is another Pumpkin Dal on this blog already; it is decently similar to the Tigers & Strawberries version, but it does not have a garnish of caramelized apples and onions. Those missing apples and onions were definitely enough to get to me to revisit the idea of a pumpkin soup with lentils.
Authentic Indian dal is made, as Barbara makes it, by cooking the lentils in fairly plain water and then adding the spiced and aromatic tarka to the lentils. Rather the inverse of western soup making, where you start with onions. I have done this before, and honestly I just cannot taste the difference and I find it overly fussy. Also, I like starting my soups with onions. No logical reason, think of it as being like people who need a tea ritual–I find making soups to be soothing to my soul, and optimum relaxation requires starting with onions. There is a rhythm to my soup making, that I can do it almost subconsciously, while I attend to other stuff around the kitchen (in this case making bread, stay tuned for recipe).
I am submitting this soup to one of my favorite blogging events, created by Susan of The Well Seasoned Cook, My Legume Love Affair. The 16th serving is hosted this month by Cook, Sister! Be sure to check out Cook, Sister! after Oct. 31 for the round up.
1/2 cup split yellow peas or toovar dal
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t paprika (cayenne if you can take the heat)
1 1/2 T vegetable oil
1/2 T ghee
2 medium-large onions, chopped
1 head of garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced ginger
2 T cumin seeds
2 T brown mustard seeds
1 1/2 cup red lentils
water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock to cover lentils by 2 inches (see instructions)
1/2 t turmeric
1/2 t paprika or cayenne
1 1/2 – 1 3/4 cans of solid pack pumpkin
apple cider to taste/desired consistency
1 T garam masala
For adjusting taste at end:
2-6 T dark brown sugar
more apple cider
more garam masala, up to additional 1 T
drizzle cider vinegar
cayenne pepper to taste
3 tart, crisp, firm apples, peeled, thinly sliced, and tossed with 1-2 t of cider vinegar
2 medium-large onions, thinly sliced
1/4 t cinnamon (no need for Vietnamese here)
1/4 t cloves
3/4 t brown mustard seeds
1-2 T ghee
2 t dark brown sugar
pinch of salt to taste
Begin by cooking the split peas in a separate, smaller pan. Rinse the split peas, add them to the pot, cover with cold water by several inches and bring to a boil. Add the 1/2 t turmeric and 1/2 t cayenne/paprika. Cover and simmer and until tender–the amount of time will depend on whether you use toovar dal or yellow split peas, with split peas taking longer than toovar dal (my toovar dal took about 30 minutes). When they are tender, add a decent pinch of salt, cook another 5-10 minutes, and then turn the heat off. They can sit in the cooking water until you are ready to add them.
Heat a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the oil and ghee. When it is shimmering, add the chopped onions. Cook until dark golden, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes–you may need to reduce the heat to prevent scorching. Add the ginger and garlic and cook until dark brown, another 10-15 minutes. If you have trouble with scorching, you can splash some water into the pan and deglaze occasionally. When the onions are dark, add the cumin seeds and brown mustard seeds. Cook until the mustard seeds pop, maybe 2-3 minutes, stirring.
Rinse the red lentil. Add the lentils to the pot and cover with water or stock by 2 inches (I used part chicken stock and part veggie stock–I am almost always in favor of stock over water, and unlike most legumes, you do not need to worry about salt when cooking red lentils). Add the 1/2 t turmeric and 1/2 t cayenne/paprika. Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer until the red lentils are falling apart and thickening the soup.
At this point start the topping. Heat a large nonstick skillet over medium heat with the sliced onions in it. When they start to sizzle add the ghee and cook for about 20 minutes, sitrring occasionally.
When the lentils are done, after about 20 minutes, add the drained split peas/toovar dal and the pumpkin (just eyeball the pumpkin). Stir until mixed in and add apple cider to desired consistency. Add the garam masala, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
While it is simmering, add the apples, spices and brown sugar to the onions in the nonstick skillet. Once the apples are sizzling, reduce the heat to low, and cook until the stew is ready, stirring occasionally and letting the onions and apples caramelize.
After the 15 minutes, taste for seasoning. The stew will need some brown sugar for certain–how much depends on your taste. A little cider vinegar will wake the stew up if it seems dull, and more garam masala or some cayenne pepper will help if it seems bland. I adjusted to taste with all of these ingredients.
Serve the stew topping with the caramelized apples and onions as well as a drizzle of tamarind chutney (the chutney is the inky dark drizzle in the pictures). Add some cayenne pepper if someone wants more heat. Several of us really liked the stew with a dollop of Greek yogurt as well.