A warming daal recipe from a spice expert
Nandita Godbole, creator of Curry Cravings Kitchen is one of my favorite experts on the use of aphrodisiac, Eastern spices. This week she offers us a warming Daal recipe with complex, seasonal flavors from her cookbook, A Dozen Ways To Celebrate: Twelve Decadent Indian Feasts For The Culinary Indulgent.
What is daal, (or dal or dahl)?
You might have heard of daal, also sometimes spelled dal or dahl. You might have even ordered one or two at your favorite Indian restaurant. But you may still be wondering what defines a daal.
Daal, dal and dahl all refer to both an ingredient and a dish. The dish called daal is made from the ingredient daal, dried split peas, lentils or other legumes at the base of the dish. Different varieties of legumes tend to be featured in different parts of India. But the method is still the same. The dried legumes are soaked and simmered to tenderness. This is the heart of a daal. What happens from here is up to the creativity and flavor preferences of the chef.
How to make a daal for a winter day
I like this warming recipe as a choice for an autumn or winter day. The heat from the chiles will warm the body from the inside out. That’s one of the reasons the spice is among my favorite aphrodisiacs. Clove, one of the other spices Nandita incorporates into this recipe, is also known for its powers to warm the body. And the turmeric, also an aphrodisiac, will help to naturally boost your immune system during the cold and flu months.
Nandita recommends serving this dish as a modest but complexly flavored romantic dinner. But it also works well as the main course of a vegetarian dinner party. And the leftovers make a sensational and nutritious lunch the next day.
This warming winter daal (or dal) is made with body-warming chiles and health-boosting turmeric.
- 2 tbsp ghee or butter
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 2-4 tbsp cashew halves
- 1 large onion slivered
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 3 cloves
- 2 dried red chilies broken into bits
- 1/4 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 cup butternut squash cut into small cubes, OR 2 yellow crookneck squashes, thinly sliced
- 4-5 cups water or as needed for precooking and cooking
- 2 cups raw toor daal split yellow pigeon peas
- 1 tsp lemon juice
- salt to taste
- 5-10 stems of cilantro trimmed for garnish
- Precook the toor daal in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water for 20 minutes or boil on the stove top in a heavy-bottom pan until soft.
- Whisk the daal until smooth and thin it out with ½ cup or more of water until its consistency is similar to heavy cream. Set aside.
- In a heavy-bottom saucepan, warm the ghee (or butter) until it is melted and add cumin seeds.
- As the seeds begin to sizzle, add the cashew halves and lightly sauté them until they are golden.
- Remove the cashews from the ghee and save them for topping the daal.
- Add the slivered onions to the remaining ghee and sauté them until they are lightly golden brown.
- Add the garlic cloves, cloves and broken pieces of red chilies, and sauté for ½ minute. Take care at this point, as the cloves are likely to pop and sputter out of the pan.
- Add the turmeric powder and squash of your choice and stir until the squash is coated with the spices.
- Cook the squash on medium-low for 2-4 minutes until the edges are browned.
- Slowly pour the cooked and whisked daal into this compote and stir in to ensure that the daal does not stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
- Add water as needed to make a smooth consistency and to allow the daal to boil, the squash to cook and the flavors to combine. Since all the ingredients are mostly precooked at this point, the boil is only intended to help the squash cook through.
- Stir every 1-2 minutes to prevent the daal from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan.
- Finish the daal with lemon juice and salt, and sprinkle with cilantro leaves and reserved cashew for a final garnish. Enjoy hot.
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