This is an unassuming but gorgeous dal and one of my favorite lentil dishes of all time. A gentle and soothing marriage of soft lentils and earthy cumin and chiles, tempered by butter, it’s old-fashioned home cooking at its best: nourishing, cheap to make, and comforting.
Serves 4 as part of a main course
1½ cups moong dal (split yellow mung beans)
4 tablespoons ghee or unsalted butter
1½ teaspoons cumin seeds
3 banana shallots or other large shallots, finely sliced
2 Indian green chiles, very thinly sliced
5 cloves of garlic, crushed
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon garam masala
1½ teaspoons salt (or to taste)
Wash the dal until the water runs clear, then drain, place in a deep saucepan, and cover with 61/3 cups of water. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for 30 to 40 minutes, until tender.
Meanwhile, put the ghee or butter into a frying pan over medium heat and, when hot, add the cumin seeds and shallots. Cook for around 5 minutes, then add the green chiles and garlic. Cook for another 5 minutes, or until the shallots start to brown, then add the turmeric and garam masala.
Put into the dal and stir, then add the salt. You might need to add a little extra hot water to make the dal a bit thinner. Check the seasoning, and serve with plain basmati rice or naan, together with some pickle and yogurt.