This simple brown lentil curry is an everyday dal that you’ll find served in Indian homes. While it’s not going to make an appearance on the menu next to dal makhani at your local Indian restaurant, it’s still a very comforting and well-spiced dal, perfect for an ordinary day.
Do you have a “happy place,” and if so, is it food-related?
I have a few happy places (most involve food, lol). One of them is really easy for me to get to. It’s me sitting by myself on my couch, wrapped up in a big blanket, holding a bowl that’s nearly filled to the brim with piping hot dal and fragrant basmati. At the very edge of my bowl sits a plop of cold yogurt and a spoonful of spicy achar (Indian pickle). I wait for the kids to go to bed so that I can silently eat, smell, and savor every single bite. It feels like home. Which I guess makes sense… considering it’s actually in my home.
I like to shake things up now and then, though. Nothing crazy. Just switch out the dal for another dal after some time. Lately, I’ve been all about these chubby little brown lentils, also known as whole masoor dal (or sabut masoor dal).
Tell me all about brown lentils, Ashley (said no one ever).
Brown lentils are chubby little lentils that keep their shape even after pressure cooking. Did you know that when you disrobe a brown lentil… it’s actually red underneath? Now I’m imagining a naked lentil. Here red lentil, take my coat. Ah, too late. Poor thing got so embarrassed it turned to mush. 🙈
That’s the thing with red lentils. They turn into (a tasty) mush when you cook them. But somehow, when red lentils keep their outer brown shell (and are therefore actually brown lentils…), they keep their lens-like shape.
As far as flavor, the brown shell gives the sweet and nutty red lentil a bit of earthiness. Though when doused in Indian spices, it’s really the texture of a lentil that matters most. And as we’ve established, brown lentils can hold their own under pressure (cooking).
(Want to learn more about legumes often used in Indian cooking? You can read this post).
There’s a lot to love about lentils. They’re delicious, nutritious, economical, and thanks to the instant pot and my onion masala, they are quick and easy to cook.
Speaking of onion masala…
If you haven’t made my onion masala yet, what’s going on, friend? Do you not want to save hours spent in the kitchen? Do you enjoy standing around every day waiting for onions to brown and tomatoes to reduce?
It’ll save you loads of energy and time. You will be happier for it.
- 1 cup whole masoor dal (brown lentils), soaked for 1-2 hours
- 1 tablespoon ghee or oil
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- ½ serrano pepper, minced (adjust to taste)
- 2 ½ cups water
- ½ cup onion masala
- 1 teaspoon salt, to taste
- ½ teaspoon coriander
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne, to taste
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- Cilantro, garnish
- Soak the lentils for a couple hours (or overnight). Drain, rinse and set aside.
- Press the sauté button, add the ghee/oil and allow it to heat up for a minute. Add cumin seeds and green chili pepper to the pot. Once the cumin seeds brown, add lentils and remaining ingredients to the pot.
- Secure the lid, close the pressure valve and cook for 15 minutes at high pressure.
- Naturally release pressure.
- Garnish with cilantro and serve.