My family is a bit obsessed with Indian food. If you tell my kids we are getting Indian food takeout for dinner, their eyes light up like it’s Christmas morning. The longer we’ve been eating Indian food, the more we venture away from our favorites to discover new favorites. One of the things I’ve fallen in love with are the dals, soups made from different types of lentils that are eaten with flatbreads or with rice. The great thing about dal is that they are easy to make at home. Some Indian dishes are a bit more intimidating and involved for the normal home cook who maybe isn’t familiar with Indian cuisine, but a dal is totally doable. One of my favorite types of lentils is called urad dal, or black lentils.
One item that isn’t present in Indian cuisine are avocados. I couldn’t resist adding some chopped California Avocado in a batch of Black Lentil Dal recently. Best decision ever. The texture of California Avocados and Indian food are particularly meant for each other and making the dal is simple. You start out the day before by soaking the lentils. When you’re ready to cook the dal you sauté some cumin seeds and chopped onion in oil, then add crushed tomatoes, ginger, garlic, serrano pepper, and spices to make the base of your dal. Then you add your soaked black lentils and some water and let everything simmer on the stove until the lentils are tender. When they are done, all that’s left to do is stir in fresh chunks of avocado, a bit of coconut cream, and then garnish with some fresh cilantro.
I like to serve the dal with steamed basmati rice, but you could use whatever long grain rice you have on hand, or serve it with some flatbread, like naan, instead!
Indian Black Lentil Dal with California Avocados Recipe
Makes 4 servings
1 cup whole Indian black lentils (urad dal)
1 tablespoon coconut oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 cup (8 fluid ounces) crushed tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 inch fresh ginger, finely grated
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon garam masala
1 serrano chili, finely chopped (seeds and membranes removed to decrease the spice level)
3 cups water
2 ripe California avocados, chopped
4 tablespoons coconut cream
Fresh cilantro leaves, to garnish
- The night before cooking the dal, put the black lentils in a bowl and cover with cool water to soak overnight. When you are ready to cook, drain the lentils.
- Heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat in a pot or wok, then add the cumin seeds. When the seeds start to sizzle, add the chopped onion and sauté until the onions start to brown.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and mix well.
- Add the garlic, ginger, salt, turmeric, cayenne pepper, garam masala, and serrano chili and stir to mix everything together.
- Sauté for 3 minutes, stirring constantly.
- Add the drained lentils and the water and stir. Bring the dal to a simmer, then cover the pot and reduce the heat as necessary to maintain a simmer and cook until the lentils are soft and creamy, about one hour, stirring occasionally. The lentils may soften before then, but if they are creamy yet, let them continue cooking. Once the lentils are finished cooking, if you want to thicken the dal further, continue simmering the dal with the lid off until it has thickened. Taste and add additional salt, if necessary.
- Remove the pot/wok from the heat, then stir in the avocados. Divide the dal into four bowls, then swirl in 1 tablespoon of coconut cream into each bowl and garnish with fresh cilantro. Serve immediately with steamed basmati rice.