Thursday, December 29, 2011

Coconut Red Lentil Dal

Cheap Eat Challenge, Part 2: Watch as our family of 6 eats on less than $10/day.

So, dal and I are, like, officially on now that the flirtations and flings of the wintery Christmas parties have ended. And not a moment too soon. I know that January is supposed to be an austere and dreary time of year and I suppose that in certain respects it could be. Yet, lately the indulgences of Christmas have started to seem so over-the-top to me that I sort of welcome January with it's shut-in, cup-o-soup sort of way. (Yes, I am an old lady in a somewhat younger body.) And if you're going to be shut in with a cup of soup, this is certainly the way to go.

That said, you can eat this as a soup. Or you can let it cook a little longer and get it thicker and much more like a dal. This is what I recommend. It heightens the flavors of the mixture and just does something. Something wonderful. Slow and steady, she always wins the race.

If you've got some Farro around (as recommended in 101 Cookbooks from whence this comes), this is like a dream come true, served over it. Yes, I did just say 'dream come true' in reference to a bunch of mushy lentils (stewed in coconut milk my friends; coconut is sexy, right?) and a whole grain. Told you I was an old woman trapped in a somewhat younger body. What I didn't tell you is that being old in a somewhat younger body is totally the way to go.

Coconut Red Lentil Dal
adapted from 101 Cookbooks (her ingredient list is perfect; her instructions a little fussy to my mind)
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Cost: $2.55
peas/lentils: .20, carrot: .10, fresh ginger: .02, butter: .02, green onions: .36, raisins: .10, coconut milk: 1.30, tomato paste: .20) cilantro: .25)

1 C yellow split peas (I didn't have so subbed in regular old lentils--the greenish kind you find at Walmart)
1 C red lentils
7 C water (I wasn't sure I should trust this and almost used chicken stock instead, but 101 Cookbooks came through for me and the water worked fine)
1 medium carrot, diced
2 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 Tbsp butter (or olive oil for a vegan option)
8 green onions, thinly sliced
1/3 C raisins (again, I hesitated here, but went ahead with it--totally awesome. You have to add the raisins. They cook so that they kind of mush into everything else, but add a nice earthy pop of sweetness to the brew)
1/3 C tomato paste
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 tsp fine grain sea salt
1 small handful cilantro, chopped (this could be optional, but I do love me some cilantro)

Rinse peas and lentils until they no longer put off a murky water. This took more rinses than I expected. I'm not sure it's worth it, but I expect it might lower the gasaciousness of the legumes. Place them in a big pot and cover them in the water. Bring to a boil.

Reduce heat and simmer. Add carrot and 1/2 Tbsp of ginger. Cover and simmer 30 minutes or until peas are soft.

In the meantime, melt your butter in a small skillet. Add curry, ginger, half the green onions, and the raisins (seriously, don't skip them, even if you hate raisins). Saute for a couple minutes (you should start smelling the seasonings) and then add the tomato paste and saute for another minute.

Add this to the simmering soup (add it after the first 30 minutes). Add coconut milk and salt. Simmer, uncovered for 20 more minutes. It will thicken up and you should give it a stir here and there to be sure it's not sticking to the bottom of your pan (if it is, turn down the heat or stir it more frequently or both). I liked it nice and thick. (How thick you may ask, especially if you're not used to making dal? Well, I hate to use the word pasty here because it's not a word we usually use with food to mean good things, but you'll want to get it less soupy and more pasty. Not so pasty you could make a pinata out of it or anything, but definitely on the pasty spectrum. Hope that helps.)

And I really liked it with some cooked farro thrown in.

Serve garnished with remaining green onions and cilantro.


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