We love throwing dinner parties. Sometimes we’ll prepare an entire evening based around a particular place in the world. Ryan grew up eating Cuban food, and we have often chosen that theme since we have so many wonderful family recipes. A typical dinner party menu would include black beans and rice, our 20-clove garlicky yuca, a side of crispy tostones, a pitcher of sangria, and the silkiest flan for dessert—a simple classic recipe that Ryan’s abuelita and mother would make when he was growing up. One night a few years ago, we were fortunate to be invited to a dinner party where our friend Sarosh cooked a feast of delicious Pakistani dishes from her childhood. Everything she prepared was so incredibly flavorful that we asked for a few of the recipes and have been enjoying them ever since. These cooler fall breezes inspired us to make this traditional spicy daal the other night and we realized that it had to be shared with the world. So with the permission of our dear friend, we invite you to try this authentic masoor daal, a simple South Asian delicacy here to welcome September with its spicy, warm, and comforting flavors and beautifully appropriate fall color.
Also known as peeli (yellow) daal, this vegan dish is a perfect side to go with any meal, and can even be an entrée on its own. Here, red lentils are simmered with aromatic spices, caramelized onions, and a green serrano chile that adds an enticing heat. All the spices are available from your local grocery, and you can find chaat masala—a traditional blend—at Indian grocery stores or online. Typically accompanied with a steaming bowl of fragrant basmati rice and freshly-baked naan bread, this healthy dish is also a delicious source of vitamins, fiber, and protein. The way we’ve been devouring it around here, pretty soon we’ll be glowing from the inside out!
You will be amazed how easy it is to make daal at home. You just simmer some lentils and spices in a pot, sauté onions in a skillet, then combine the two! And if you want to make some basmati rice to go with the daal, it cooks in the same amount of time, making planning a breeze. Between this recipe and our roasted tandoori cauliflower, you’re already well on your way to a delicious themed dinner party. Now to put together a playlist…
serves 6 to 8
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large yellow onion (about 400 g), thinly sliced
2 cups (400 g) red lentils (masoor daal)
6 cups (1.4 l) water
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 teaspoons chaat masala powder (see note)
1 whole green serrano chile, stem removed and top scored to increase heat, if desired
Place a wide, deep skillet over medium-low heat. When hot, add the olive oil, then add the sliced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until deeply browned and caramelized, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, inspect the lentils for any stones—simply spread the lentils on a rimmed baking sheet to make them easy to see, and discard any stones that are found. Transfer the lentils to a fine-mesh strainer and rinse until the water runs clear. Transfer the lentils to a 4-quart saucepan, add the water, then all the spices and the chile pepper. Place saucepan over medium heat, cover, and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, continue to simmer covered for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the caramelized onions to the pot of simmering daal. Stir well to combine, cover saucepan, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve hot, with basmati rice and naan if desired, and enjoy!
— UPDATE 1/5/2020: Changed wording in the recipe to caramelize the onions more deeply—originally they were cooked for just 15-20 minutes, rather than 30. We also added weight measurements.
— Chaat masala is an aromatic spice blend available at Indian grocery stores and online.