A Winter Recipe by Nandini Natasha Austin
Whenever I think of my mum I think of Dhal. Dhal has stable, soft, warming qualities and is always a reliable dish that you can never go wrong with :). Back in London, it was a staple in our North London house. In the 1970's it was not some kind of superfood but just good old dhal that my mum and her mum served up time and time and again. I still love it so much that I adapted the recipe so it's made in an instapot. Now that I have two children of my own my time is limited. I love the fact I can walk away from the instapot and come back in within an hour to a wonderful dish.
Often Dhal was served at the many "pooja's or prayers we would go to with my father who was a Hindu priest so as I child I got to try so many different kinds. In Mauritius, my parent's homeland, there are so many types of dhal. They differ according to the chef, ingredients and some are thicker and others soupier. Dhal is often served with rice or a side dish in Mauritius with some good bread to mop up all the goodness. To me, Dhal will always be the ultimate comfort food, anytime but especially good on a cold winter's day.
And now that spring, it's time to scale back on those heavier, oiler, protein-rich “comfort foods” needed during the dry and depleting winter season and begin moving toward lighter sources of protein like legumes and this red lentil Dhal soup.
From an Ayurvedic perspective, Red Lentils are Sweet, Astringent, Cooling, Light and Soft – so they are balancing to Vata, Pitta and Kapha (if eaten on their own, their astringency could imbalance Vata but if cooked with a little oil and pungent spices, they become Tridoshic) which this dish is.
Dal is the Sanskrit term for an Indian soup made from a split bean with its skin removed such as the red lentil. Red lentils are a powerhouse of vital nutrients including plant-sourced iron and protein, essential vitamin Bs, folate, zinc, phosphorous, manganese, fiber, copper, and potassium. This particular dal recipe is considered tridoshic and can be enjoyed by all body types. It is also vegan, gluten-free, and grain-free making it a great meal choice for those with specific dietary needs. If you are not grain-free however, combine this dish with rice, bread, or whole grain of your choice. My favorites are basmati rice, brown rice, or quinoa, but feel free to explore.
This Dhal soup is so easy to make in the Instapot and I get my children to help with the prep so they learn about spices, and herbs and develop a wide range of tastes from a young age.
As a family, we enjoyed this curry on a Winters's day outside al Fresco. We served it with a dollop of yogurt on top and chopped fresh cilantro and some bread for dipping.
So don't let the long list of ingredients scare you. If you don't have all of them, then substitute ie ginger power is fine if you don't have fresh ginger. Omit the coconut milk if you want it less creamy. Cooking for me is always about trying new things, having a go, and experimenting until you get it the way you like it.
So try this feel-good winter recipe below that is made with love. It's sure to provide you with a warming to your belly on these cold winer days.
Delicious Red Lentil Dhal
1 tablespoon of coconut oil
1 medium yellow onion
3-4 sprigs of thyme
3-4 curry leaves
1 tablespoon of ginger garlic paste or (3 minced garlic cloves 2 inches of ginger )
1-2 green chili pepper, finely chopped (add more to your taste)
A bunch of chopped coriander stalks ( optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 cup of washed red lentils
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon cumin powder
½ teaspoons paprika
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
5 cups of water
½ cup milk ( optional)
½-1 can of tomatoes sauce good-quality tomato passata
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Garnish with a Bunch of cilantro chopped for garnish and yogurt and green chutney
Set the instapot on saute mode for 10 mins
Add coconut oil, onion, ginger, garlic, curry leaves let sizzle and cook,
Add in add the tomatoes, spices, salt, and Saute for a 10 mins
Add red lentils and stir
Stop saute mode, stir to ensure nothing is stuck to the bottom of the pan,
Top the pot up with 5 cups of water and the coconut milk ( make sure never go over the max line )
Close the Instapot securely, ensuring the pressure valve is correct.
Set on pressure cook and for 50 mins
After the time is up, carefully release the pressure valve (move away for this step.)
Then open and stir the Dhal well.
When ready to serve, ladle into a bowl, add a dollop of fresh yogurt and chopped cilantro for garnish,
Serve and enjoy