Okay, for dinner on the first day of the Food Stamp (SNAP) 30-Day Challenge included green lentil dahl, a dish I really love. For the challenge, I had to do without some of the things I would usually use on this recipe, but it turned out tasting really good without it–maybe not as good as my real version, but pretty durn good, if I do say so myself.
The cost of making this was relatively cheap, if you have the spices and such already. The cost per serving for me was a little more, because I had to eat the cost of an entire bottle of olive oil for the meal. You could make it cheaper by using vegetable oil or canola oil, but I’m just not that into those oils. Olive oil is better for you and it tastes better too.
So here’s the recipe for the green lentil dahl:
- 2 cups dry green lentils
- About four cups of water
- 4 carrots, chopped
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic
- salt and pepper
- 2 Tbls oil
- 1 Tbls cumin (seeds work best, but powder is easier to find)
- 1 tsp. red chili flakes
- ½ tablespoon paprika
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 Tbls honey
Sprouting Lentils—if you want to:
I like to sprout lentils before cooking them. The reason for this is multiple, but to keep it simple: it’s easy to do and then it’s less legume and more ‘vegetable’, with the phytonutrients and micronutrients of plants but the bulk and protein of the lentil. So yeah, good stuff. Sprouting isn’t hard, but it takes time, so you have to plan a little in advance.
Three days before you’re going to cook the lentils, you want to put them in a container and cover them with water. Let them sit on your counter uncovered. Once or twice per day, drain and rinse the lentils and put them back in the dish and cover with water. On about the third day, you’ll see the beans sprout, and little plants coming out of them. When the sprouts are about 1/8 of an inch in length on the majority of the lentils, they are ready to go. Sprouting them like this will give you a lighter flavor, less dense, but still really good—in fact, I like it better this way.
Even if you don’t sprout the lentils, you want to soak them for at least a half hour or so before you cook them. The longer you soak them, the easier it is to cook and the better they will taste.
- Whether you sprout the lentils or not, your next step is to put them in a big stock pot and add enough water to cover them again. You want about as much water as you have lentils—so you’ll have for two cups of lentils, put two cups of water. Put on the stove on a medium heat.
- Add some salt to taste and add half the garlic powder and black pepper to the stock pot.
- Chop the other vegetables and put them in the stock pot as well. If you want more substance to the dish, you can chop up a potato or for more nutrition, you can put a sweet potato in. Cook for at least 15-30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender enough to give to the push of a fork.
- Once vegetables are tender, turn down the heat. Get out a blender or a hand mixer/immersion blender and blend the vegetable/lentil mixture until it is a thick consistency and blended mostly smooth. A chunky dahl is just fine, so you don’t have to liquefy it. If you don’t have a blender or mixer, cook the vegetables a little bit longer to make them even softer, and then you can mash them with a fork or a potato masher.
- In a frying pan, put two tablespoons of a quality oil (olive oil, coconut oil, safflower oil, etc.) and add rest of the garlic powder, red pepper flakes, paprika, cumin, salt and black pepper. Heat the oil until sizzling, stirring constantly to heat the spices and bring out the flavor.
- Once the oil and spice mixture has ‘bloomed’, that is, the fragrance of the spices is permeating the house and the oil is mixed well with the spices, then you can turn the heat up on the oil and add the honey, stirring constantly to blend (note to diabetics: check with your doctor, but most type II diabetes patients can have honey, and especially when it’s used in a cooked dish, as long as it’s not an excessive amount.)
- Carefully (it will splatter if you’re not careful) add spoonsful of the lentil mixture into the frying pan a little at a time, mixing and stirring it into the spices to spread the flavor. Do this quickly, or else the heat will dry out the dahl really fast.
Once you’ve stirred the spices all up into the dahl, you can remove from the heat and serve.
Servings: About six
Calories: About 700 per serving.
Alternatives: When not making this for the Food Stamp Challenge, I’d change this up some. You can add fresh turmeric root, ground turmeric spice, coriander seeds, mustard seeds and white pepper seeds to the oil and you cook them in the oil until they ‘pop’ and burst open. This makes such an amazing flavor! Unfortunately, for the ‘food stamp challenge budget’, I didn’t have enough money to buy the spices I wanted to use. Additionally, you’d want to use 2 tablespoons of tamarind paste to be added at the same time you add the honey.
Chicken is good added to dahl, because the dahl is almost a thick ‘sauce’ of sorts. If you season some chicken and chop it into bite-sized pieces, you can add the cooked chicken into dahl after you’ve mixed it up, and then pour them both over the creamy seasoned rice (see rice recipe here.)
Also, as I said earlier, adding a sweet potato or a regular potato will add some calories and some ‘bulk’ to the dahl, making it ‘starchier’ so it will be a bit thicker and less watery, more substance to it and added nutrition, but I hadn’t shopped for the challenge yet, so I didn’t add that.
Other veggies: You can make dahl with other veggies in the water as well, just about anything you like the flavor of. If you can get kids to eat dahl, which a lot of kids like it because it doesn’t taste like a vegetable, you can ‘hide’ vegetables in it because it’s ground up in the blender. Adding some spinach, kale, squash, zucchini, eggplant, you name it, and the kids won’t know they are eating something good for them!