janet @ the taste space

Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime

In Favourites, Mains (Vegetarian) on September 26, 2011 at 8:17 AM

If you could pick only 4 dried spices to have your kitchen, what would they be?

I know, it is a tough question…

For me, perhaps cumin, cinnamon, Aleppo chili flakes and bay leaves.

I use these ingredients a lot and feel out of place if I have to work in a kitchen without them. Funnily enough, they aren’t your typical spices found in a North American kitchen.

My friend recently visited and requested that we cook together. She wanted to learn how to cook more like me, ie, more healthy, vegetarian cooking. Of course, I can easily whip up healthy recipes with my own pantry staples, but I wanted to work with what she had in her kitchen.

I immediately wanted to know what kind of equipment she had. No food processor nor spice grinder, but she thinks she has a Magic bullet. Next, I needed to know what spices she had.

She had to get back to me, she couldn’t remember.


Turns out, she had four: cumin, turmeric, bay leaves and curry powder.

Of all the spices, what a wonderful selection! I could breathe more easily.. I could whip out my cumin recipes! And bean recipes!

I gave her a menu, with a multitude of possibilities that worked within her kitchen constraints as well as her own prep constraints. She told me she didn’t want to do a lot of chopping, not a lot of prep time, focusing on hearty dishes with beans and root vegetables, and she likes zucchini and eggplant.

Turns out I had made a killer dal recipe earlier that week from Julia’s Vegan Kitchen (adapted from Indian Home Cooking‘s recipe), so I was tickled pink when she picked it as the meal she wanted to make together.

While I originally made this simple dal with split yellow peas, red lentils are better for quick meals. Red lentils are a great choice for bean newbies since they don’t need any pre-soaking and cook up in under half an hour. Therefore, I used red lentils with my friend.

Despite a seemingly short ingredient list, this is a really flavourful dal. With the right cooking techniques, you can make the flavours pop. The trick is the heighten the flavour with a little simmering of the spices in oil that you add at the end of cooking.

While you get the lentils simmering and the rice is cooking, you heat up some garlic, ginger, cumin and chili flakes in a bit of oil.  When the lentils are finished, you add the spice mixture along with fresh lime juice. It is that simple, yet so good. I cannot stress how important it is to use fresh ingredients, as its flavours are heightened when heated in the oil. The fresh lime juice adds an element of brightness, tempering the dish in all the right ways. Personally, I preferred this dal with the yellow split peas, as they were deceptively sweet.  I have had a hard time finding a split pea soup I like, so I was surprised at how much I loved this. It was a bit more soupy when fresh, but firms up nicely as leftovers (see the above picture!)

In fact, everyone was smitten by how easy, flavourful and healthy this meal was. It will definitely be added to our regular rotation of no-think, pantry-friendly recipes.

Here were some other dishes on my friend’s menu:

Warm Chickpea and Artichoke Salad

Middle Eastern Lentils and Rice with Caramelized Onions

Red Lentil and Lemon Soup

Orange Red Lentils and Spinach

Red Lentil, Spinach, and Lemon Soup

Ever So Nice Rice and Beans from The Two-Week Wellness Solution

Chickpea and Spinach Stirfry

Coconut Curried Lentils with Basmati Rice from Supermarket Vegan

Easy Curried Chickpeas and Quinoa from Fat Free Vegan

Ginger Red Lentils with Garlic from 660 Curries

What are your your favourite no-think quick, healthy vegan recipes?

This is being submitted to this week’s Weekend Herb Blogging, hosted by Winnie from Healthy Green Kitchen.

Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime

1 cup yellow split peas (or red lentils)
1/2 tsp turmeric
3/4 tsp salt
4 cups water (3 cups if using red lentils)
1 tbsp canola or coconut oil
1 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp Aleppo chili flakes, to taste
1 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
cayenne to taste
juice of 1/2 lime
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, optional

1.  Put the peas into a large saucepan with the turmeric, salt and water (use 3 cups of water for red lentils).  Bring to a boil and skim well.  Turn the down and simmer, covered, until the peas crumble when you touch them, about 45-60 minutes (or 15 minutes for red lentils).  Taste for salt and add more if you need to.

2.  Using a potato masher, mash some of the legumes. Then continue cooking at a simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes to thicken.  If you like a thicker dal, use a whisk to break the lentils up into a puree.

3.  For the tempering oil, heat the oil with the cumin seeds in a small frying pan over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, until the cumin turns a light brown color, 1 to 2 minutes.  Add the chili flakes, the ginger, garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic no longer smells raw and turns a golden brown color, about 30 more seconds.  Remove the pan from the fire, add the cayenne and sprinkle in a few drops of water to stop the cooking.

4.  Stir half of the tempering oil, half of the cilantro and all of the lime or lemon juice into the dal.  Simmer very gently, uncovered, for 5 minutes.  Transfer the dal to a serving bowl.  Pour the remaining tempering oil over the top and sprinkle with the remaining cilantro.  Serve hot with rice.

Serves 4.

  1. Too difficult a question…. let me think

    smoked paprika

    now, if we are not only talking about dried spices, then ginger is my number 1 – cannot live without it, that’s why I am going to make your dal with ginger and lime soon (love anything citric too)

    • I know, it is unfair.. hence why I have a drawer filled with spices! I love smoked paprika and coriander as well! I am also with you on ginger – but only fresh. Can’t say I use much of the ground ginger. Definitely let me know how you like the dal. 🙂

  2. Isn’t teaching people how to cook healthy such a fun rewarding experience? So many think it’s so complicated…when really it’s super easy! This sounds like a great dish and a great menu that you put together for her!

  3. My favourites are cumin, cinnamon, star anise and mixed peppercorns. I love ginger and chilli flakes but I do use those fresh as well. I don’t use star anise all that often but it’s such a lovely, special flavour although it does need other spices to work I guess (I’m thinking Chinese 5 spice powder which I really love). Paprika is great too.

    Spices are gorgeous aren’t they?!

    You have some lovely recipes here.

  4. Sounds really great…thanks for submitting to WHB!

  5. You’re blog is amazing! I’m glad you stumbled upon mine so that I could do the same to yours. Love YOUR style. Beautiful photos and great looking food. I’ll be sure to try some of these recipes out.

  6. […] The Taste Space shared Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime […]

  7. This looks amazing! I’ll definitely have to try this one.

  8. […] Janet of The Taste Space in Toronto, Canada sent in this gorgeous and I am sure extremely flavorful Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime. […]

  9. Yummy! I’m just getting into dal’s, so it’s nice to get a few more recipes… I love the idea of adding ginger 🙂

  10. Yaey how fun to cook with friends. 🙂 I like the addition of lime in this. Hm that is a tough question indeed, what 4 spices to pick. Interesting that you picked bay leaf!! I think I might pick cinnamon, cumin, oregano and coriander?? Hm those are the ones that popped up first.

    • I know bay leaf seems so odd, but I add it to my beans whenever I cook them from scratch. Of all the spices I bought at Penzey’s last year, I’ve used up all the cumin and bay leaves.. and I got the big bags. 🙂 Their cinnamon is great too, but haven’t run out yet. I agree that coriander should be in the top as well since I go through that pretty fast.. and tumeric, holy geeze, we go through that now that we have Indian dishes galore here.. and smoked paprika, let’s not forget that… I will have to restock mine when I head down South as well. 🙂

  11. Cumin and cayenne are definitely number 1 and 2 for me. If I can cheat, lemon/lime juice is certainly the thing I use the most of, along with salt. Otherwise… I LOVE sage and chipotles, although I don’t use them as often.

    My mom now makes that dal all the time! It’s so simple, but really perfect. 🙂

  12. […] pigeon peas. I actually originally bookmarked this recipe when I saw Anja using split yellow peas (my latest craze), but I’ve bought a few new split beans to facilitate more cooking from 660 Curries, […]

  13. […] Unlike the previous posts for WIWFAV, I cook and eat vegan meals every day. Without any refined sugars or flours, to boot. I wouldn’t stress when serving a vegan meal because that’s what I know best. Quite the contrary, I will stress more when feeding omnivores who will likely find most of my meals a bit exotic. At meals, I often feel like a vegan ambassador and prefer to showcase how awesome vegan cooking can be – full of flavours, healthy and diverse. Not only that, I like to show how easy this can be, hoping that others will want to duplicate the recipes after I leave. […]

  14. This dal was really good, one of my favorites. I noticed you don’t usually add green chili when the recipe calls for it, do they not agree with you? I added a serano chili, more lime, no aleppo, 2 dried red chilis and only 1/4 t tumeric, 1/4 t cayenne, more water and cooked in the pressure cooker. Great!

    • Hey Elizabeth, I finally have green chiles as a staple in my kitchen but I much prefer Aleppo chili flakes because they have a more warm flavour. Green chiles can be more of a sharp stab in the tongue, if you know what I mean…. but anything works, whatever you have in your kitchen.. love your little twists to the recipe and so happy to hear you loved it as much as me. 🙂

  15. […] I eat it every day. These are staples throughout the world. I still have my favourite repeater curries, but like to mix things up with seasonal […]

  16. […] with Roasted Garlic and Sage Finnish Double Pea Stew with Apples Iraqi Eggplant and Seitan Stew Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime Ethiopian Split Pea Puree (Kik Alicha) Ethiopian Split Pea and Squash Stew with Collard Greens […]

  17. […] taken to sharing his Indian cooking tips with my friends. We’ve also made Dal Bhat and the Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime at other times, highlighting simple and tasty Indian home cooking. These are all lessons from […]

  18. […] Mountain Lentil Curry (Dal Bhat) Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime Indian Lentils with Spinach (Dal Palak) Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas […]

  19. […] have come from Julia’s recommendations. Some of the keepers I have tried from her include: Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime, Besan Chilla, Indian Lentils with Spinach, Indian Roasted Eggplant and Tomatoes with […]

  20. […] Split Pea Dal with Ginger and Lime […]

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