Lentil and Red Bean Dahl (vegan)
The hottest thing in the fast food industry is the “Dollar Menu” during this recession, but at the grocery store, a whole package of lentils costs just 79 cents. Add an onion and some spices and you can feed a big family several times over for a dollar or two.
This recipe is an example of sloooooow cooking. It could well be a week or more from the time you start soaking the beans to the time you finish the last bowl of leftovers. This is not a bad thing. In fact, many of the best things in life are slow.
The red beans should be soaked for at least 8 hours although some people advise soaking red beans for as long three days to reduce thephytic acid that diminishes absorption of protein and healthy minerals. Like many other hearty soups and bean dishes, this tastes better a day or two after you make it than it does the day it’s made, and a big pot can be stored in the refrigerator for several days or frozen for months. So plan ahead, cook for days, and eat for days, this delicious, nutritious and low cost, slow food.
Of course, it is possible to cut corners and speed this up a bit. For example, the spices could come in the form of a spice mixture (discussed below), a food processor can be used to chop the vegetables, and the red beans could come from a can — be sure to wash off all the canning liquid. But if you like to cook, what’s the hurry? Put on some nice music, perhaps a glass of wine and enjoy the journey as much as the destination.
This recipe calls for nearly a dozen different spices. Spices are expensive to buy even if you just use a little at a time. If your spice rack is empty, forget about buying each of these and still having a meal for just a few bucks. Together all these spices add up to a basic garam masala, and you could buy just one jar labeled “garam masala” or even “curry powder” and use about 2 Tablespoons of that. Then build up your spice rack one or two jars at a time (cumin, turmeric, and cardamom are the basics) and use some of those and less of the spice mixture each time you cook. As you learn to combine these spices for yourself, your food (and your life) will have infinite variety.
One more tip for any bean dish: Wash the beans well (they are dirty) and change the soaking water often. The soaking water is what makes beans, and you, “gassy.” Never soak the beans and cook them in the same water.
Here is the recipe:
Sort, rinse, and soak ¾ cup of red beans for several hours or several days. Pour off the soaking water, rinse the beans again and cover the beans with 4 inches fresh water and low boil until tender — about an hour (may take longer).
Rinse 1½ cups of lentils (black or red or green) and low boil until tender — about 30 minutes. When both beans are done rinse them well again and strain off all of the water.
While the bens are cooking: Finely chop 1 potato, 1 onion, 2 carrots, and 3 cloves of garlic.
Put 3 Tablespoons oil (olive, safflower, or canola) in a large saucepan with 1 Tablespoon cumin seed, 1 teaspoon anise seed, 1 teaspoon mustard seed, and exactly 5 cardamom seeds (or 1/4 teaspoon cardamom powder). Keep on med-high heat until seeds start to pop like popcorn.
Lower heat and add the potatoes first (head start because they cook slowest), then the carrots, onions, and garlic. Keep the heat low and slow cook for the most flavor. [Slow cooking means: keeping the heat low, and stirring now and then so the mixture doesn’t scald. Keep cooking for 45-minutes or longer as the sugars in the carrots and onions caramelize.] It’s OK to add a little water here several times to avoid scalding.
Add 1 teaspoon ginger powder (or fresh ginger minced), 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon cinnamon, 1 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar, and ⅛ teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less to your heat tolerance – Good Dahl can be spicy without being hot.)
Keep stirring the potato spice mixture and when the potatoes are done add in the beans and 2 cups crushed tomatoes. This can be any canned tomato sauce (usually 28 oz., which is close enough) or diced tomatoes or a can of paste or 3 fresh tomatoes and 2 cups water. Heat the soup on low boil, stirring occasionally from the bottom until all ingredients are tender.
Add salt (perhaps 1 teaspoon more or less to taste), and a little more cayenne if necessary.
IMPORTANT: Find and remove all 5 cardamom seeds. You don’t want to eat one whole.
Serve with papadums.
To get the full Ayurvedic effect, add some sweet to bolster the carrots, onions, and anise. Add a dollop of mango chutney (Major Gray’s) to each bowl. Or if you are comfortable adding dairy to this otherwise vegan dish; mix equal parts mango chutney and yogurt with a dash of turmeric and dollop on top of each serving.