In our minimalism, we have made it difficult to host big parties. Unless it is standing room only or BYOC (bring your own chair). For now, we’re maxed out at 4. You see, we only have 2 kitchen chairs. When we move our table next to the couch, we can fit another 2 people. It actually worked pretty well for curry and games last weekend.
We have a large curry repertoire, but decided to play it safe and serve our favourite: Dal Bhat. Like most curries, this one tastes even better as leftovers, giving us the perfect excuse to make a big batch in advance and keep leftovers for the rest of the week.
I still haven’t figured out what makes our Dal Bhat a Nepalese specialty. When our friend travelled to Nepal and hiked up to Everest base camp, she told us our dal was superior to anything she ate there. Dal bhat translates into lentils and rice, and it could be spiced in any matter. Random vegetables are also added.
Before I left Toronto, I spotted this curry: a Nepalese curry with toor dal. I wanted to use up the last of my toor dal before the move and it looked perfect. I really enjoy the creaminess of toor dal and this curry had many of my favourite spices also found in our version of dal bhat, including cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, and garlic. Is that what makes it Nepalese? No cumin or coriander, but this one includes tomatoes which I added to the tarka and cilantro as an (optional) garnish. How could this not taste good? Trust me, it was spot on delicious.
Have no toor dal? Red lentils or split peas would be good substitutes. Have toor dal and need more ideas? Here are other curries with toor dal:
Cumin-Scented Pigeon Peas with Mango from 660 Curries
Plantain, Cabbage and Coconut Curry with Split Pigeon Peas (Indian Cabbage and Plantain Kootu) from 660 Curries
Butternut Squash, Coconut and Lentil Stew (Aarti’s Indian Summer Stew)
Mixed Lentil Stew from Flatbreads & Flavors
1 cup toor dal (can sub split peas or red lentils), rinsed and drained
4 cups water
1 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 onion, chopped
1 tbsp grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leaves
2 cardamom pods, smashed
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 cup chopped tomato (I used cherry tomatoes)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro, for garnish
1. Wash toor dal well. Place in a large pot along with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, uncovered. Remove and discard any scum that forms. Once boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 30-45 minutes until the peas are tender.
2. Meanwhile, in a small skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Add cumin and cook until fragrant, around 2 minutes. Reduce heat, add onions and saute until browned, stirring occasionally. Add the ginger, garlic, cinnamon stick, bay leaves, cardamom pods, and turmeric. Cook briefly, around 1 minute, until mixed through. Deglaze with tomatoes and allow to simmer for 2-5 minutes, until the tomatoes cook down slightly.
3. Stir the hot spiced mixture into the peas once they have softened. Allow to simmer an additional 5-10 minutes to allow the flavours to meld. You may need to add more water if it becomes too thick. Stir occasionally so the bottom does not burn. Add salt, to taste. Remove cinnamon stick, bay leaves and cardamom pods prior to serving.
4. Garnish with cilantro and serve warm, with a side of rice or naan.