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Delicious Red Lentil Dhal Instapot Recipe

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.