by Bibi Lorenzetti
One of my favorite winter foods is dhal. Dhal is a type of legume, usually split yellow or orange lentil. There are many different ways of making dhal soup, which tends to be nourishing and balancing for all doshas, depending on preparation.
I learned the following recipe from my cooking teacher in India, who is known to Westerners as Tina. She works on a camping stove set on a big rock in her living room. We gather around as she talks us through each step of cooking traditional Indian food. When the meal is ready, we—Tina, her students, family, and dogs—go outside to sit and eat together on big floor pillows in the shade of colorful fabrics.
For a while, I was making Tina’s dhal for special order at the Shala. I would pack a cart full of jars and wheel it from my Greenpoint apartment to the Bedford L, all the way to the Shala fridge. It was fun, but a lot of work! For those of you who enjoyed it and ordered it weekly, follow these steps.
You will need:
- A Dutch oven, otherwise known as a cast-iron pot
- Measuring cups
- Pan or small pot
- 1 1/3 cups of yellow or orange dhal
- 1 tsp turmeric (I like to buy it fresh and grate, so I do 2 tsp turmeric; if you use powder then 1 tsp is enough)
- 1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
- 4 dried red chili peppers (broken up)
- A few stems of cilantro (to be chopped and added at the end)
Soak the dhal in a bowl with cold water for an hour. Drain and wash under cold water until water runs clear.
Transfer the dhal to the pot together with water, and turmeric. Cover and bring to a boil. Once the water is boiling, remove the residue that rises to the top. Reduce heat. Add salt. Simmer for about 20 minutes, or until you see the dhal is getting mushy and soft, a paste-like consistency. Stir frequently throughout this process.
In a separate pan, melt ghee over medium heat. Add dried chilis, garlic, mustard and coriander seeds, grated turmeric and ginger. Stir seeds pop, then add the rest of powdered spices and fry for a few more minutes, stirring. Make sure the flame is low enough that seeds don’t burn and ghee does not dry up. You can always add a little more ghee if needed!
When dhal is ready (mushy, and water has been nearly completely absorbed), add the ghee and spice mixture to dhal and cook for a few minutes on low flame. Cover and let sit. Add cilantro as garnish upon serving.
Depending on your predominant dosha, you may want to add more or less of the following:
Grounding spices for vata: cardamom, fennel, nutmeg, asafoetida, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, black pepper, cayenne, mustard seeds, turmeric, ginger, garlic, chilis.
Cooling spices for pitta: cardamom, coriander, cilantro, fennel, cumin, turmeric, mint, parsley.
Warming spices for kapha: black pepper, cardamom, cayenne, cloves, garlic, ginger, mustard seeds, turmeric, asafoetida, cilantro, coriander, cumin, parsley, cinnamon.