As I mentioned previously, John’s parents were already coming to visit this past weekend, which left me with an entertaining dilemma. Not a huge one, mind you, I knew they would never expect me to produce a 5 course extravaganza or anything, but still as a hostess who likes to cook it is important to me to feed my guests well.
Thank goodness John’s family loves Indian food.
Because when I started looking into cooking meals with barely any fat, Indian repeatedly seemed the best option for this family. The dals especially provide a very hearty, protein-laden (and therefore filling), nearly fat free option. So while I normally might have tried 2 to 3 very different dishes (say a vegetable, a meat/poultry/seafood, and pilaf) I instead just made 2 different dals and served them with white rice. This is the first dal I chose.
The first thing I will say about this dal, as well as the other dal I made, is that you certainly could use more fat in its preparation and it would probably only improve its flavor. You guys know I am hardly a fat phobe, but it is nice to have extremely low fat options, so for that reason I have given you a range of fat. The second thing I will say specifically about this dal is that the very low fat option is aided by using a deep nonstick pot, because the lentils are sauteed in the oil with turmeric before cooking them in water. So if you do the lower fat option, I recommend nonstick pans–to cook the lentils and the tempering oil. And the last bit of dal wisdom that I have to impart is that this dal, more so than any other I have made, benefits from sitting. When I finished both dals, early in the day, the girls and I tried both. We loved the other dal but were not sure what we thought of this one. When we served it later that evening, it was unanimously everyone’s favorite. Please excuse the photos, as I grabbed the shots after we had eaten dinner.
*I made an extra large recipe, knowing that I would need low fat options over the next few days. Split in half for a smaller dish.
For the dal:
1 t – 2 T vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups yellow mung beans (moong dal), rinsed and drained
1/2 cup yellow split peas, rinsed and drained
1 t turmeric
6 cups water (use more if you like your dal soupy)
1 bay leaf
salt to taste
4 cups packed fresh spinach
1 t paprika or cayenne, to heat preference
honey or brown sugar to taste, optional
1 – 4 T ghee
4 t panch phoron, whole (i.e., not ground)
6 whole dried red chilis or 1/2 t dried red chile pepper flakes
1 fresh chile pepper, to heat tolerance, minced
1 small onion, finely diced
6 garlic cloves, minced
juice of 1 lemon
1 heaping t amchur powder
Begin the dal by brushing the 1 teaspoon of oil onto the bottom of a nonstick pot and heating it over medium high heat. When hot, add the cleaned mung beans and split peas with the turmeric and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the water and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and skim well. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until tender.
Add the spinach with the paprika/cayenne and some salt to taste and, if you are making ahead, turn off the heat and stir the spinach in as it wilts (if you are serving now, cook another 15 minutes, but halting the cooking will preserve the bright green of the spinach when you re-heat the dish later).
Heat a small-medium frying pan, nonstick if doing the lower fat option, over medium heat with the ghee in the pan. As it melts, add the panch phoron with the dried chilis or chile pepper flakes. Fry for 1-2 minutes, making sure the cumin seeds do not burn. Add the minced hot pepper, onion and garlic. Fry for 5-0 minutes, stirring, until the onions caramelize. If the onions start to stick, deglaze the pan with the lemon juice. When the onions are translucent and turning brown, take the pan off of the heat and add the amchur powder. Stir in thoroughly and then add the tempering oil to the dal.
Bring the dal to a simmer and taste for salt and sugar. Get it to where you think it is tasting good, and then quit fiddles and let it sit until you are ready to serve it. bring it back to a simmer (paricularly important to make sure it is safe) and taste again for salt or sugar (I did not need any the second time around). Serve with flatbread or basmati rice. Some people also used tamarind and nonfat Greek yogurt.