Sometimes a simple dish is all it takes, to make me feel warm and cozy on the inside. So, it is something special when someone serves me a heaping bowl of hot, thick, right off the stove dal…
When experimenting with traditional Indian cuisine, time and again I like to take staple dishes and fuse them with modern ingredients. This version adds texture, verity and color to the classic lentils and spices. The sweet potatoes cook down to make the dal creamy and slightly sweet, the cumin, mustard seeds and cayenne kick up the heat, and the kale adds some much desired crunch.
So, before the holidays come around, you may want something really simple, really hardy, really healthy, and really satisfying. This dish hits a homerun on all fronts. One HUGE serving has about 300 calories, 20g protein, and 21g fiber. Serve it with roti, naan, or rice, and if you desire, add some chopped cucumbers, tomatoes, onions, carrots and roasted beets on the side.
Yield: 4 servings
1 red onion, chopped
3/4 tsp whole cumin
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp canola or olive oil
1 tbsp finely minced fresh ginger
3 cloves finely minced garlic
1 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups water
1 1/2 cups dried yellow split peas, rinsed (chana dal)
2 tbsp curry powder (or less/more to taste)
salt, to taste
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1 small bunch kale
Heat a large pot over medium high heat and add in the oil. Pour the cumin seeds and mustard seeds into the oil, let them cook for a few seconds until they start to pop. As soon as they begin to pop, add the onions, ginger, garlic and cumin powder, cook for a few minutes.
Add the sweet potatoes, water, split peas, and curry powder. Stir well.
If using a pressure cooker, seal the cooker and bring it up to high pressure. Cook at high pressure for 9 minutes; then remove from the heat and allow the pressure to come down naturally.
If you’re cooking it in a regular pot, cover the pot and simmer until the split peas are tender and beginning to break down, about an hour. Stir regularly to make sure that the split peas don’t stick to the bottom of the pan, and add water if necessary.
While the dal is cooking, wash the kale and remove and discard the tough central rib. Chop the leaves coarsely.
When the split peas are cooked, add the kale to the pot. Season with salt, cayenne pepper. Add a little water if the soup is too thick. Cover the pot. For kale that retains some crunch, simply leave the pot covered for 5 or 10 minutes without heating, allowing the kale to cook in the heat of the soup (preferred). For kale that is more tender, you may return the pot to low heat for 10 minutes.