It’s been a pretty dry winter here in Seattle, but even then, the first day of spring was a dreary, soppy reminder that seasons operate a little differently here in the Pacific Northwest. S and I were cooped at home all day and, even though I had excitedly made salmon with asparagus over the weekend to celebrate the beginning of spring vegetables, I began to have a hankering for the hearty stews that seem to make rainy days a little better. My mind turned to daal, that simplest of Desi meals that serves as my personal comfort food.
What you see in the photo is basically everything that goes in this daal, which is a yellow split moong daal. It’s a very small, pebblish lentil with an oval shape and once cooked becomes like a thick stew. Serve with Basmati rice or flatbread of choice, and pair it with a vegetable side such as squash and potato curry.
Soak 2 cups of yellow split moong daal in 3 cups of water in a pot for about half an hour. Add 1 tbsp. salt and bring the mixture to a boil. Simmer for 30 to 35 minutes, adding more water as needed, until the daal is al dente and soupy. (I keep a kettle of boiling water next to the pot so that the additional water doesn’t drop the daal’s heat. I added about an additional cup.) Add 1 diced jalapeno, seeds removed; 1 tbsp. chopped ginger; the juice of 1 lemon; 3/4 tsp. turmeric; and a dash of cayenne pepper. Cook for another 10 minutes.
In a separate pan, heat 2 tbsp. vegetable oil until it is very hot but short of smoky and add 2 sliced garlic cloves. Cook them for 30 seconds over medium-high heat until they begin to brown slightly, and then flip. Add 3 dried red chilis. Let them warm up and darken slightly before flipping. Add 1 tsp. cumin seeds, and, optionally, 1 tbsp. shredded coconut. Remove from heat as soon as you can smell the cumin, and add to the daal mixture.
Let everything cook together for a few minutes before serving. Top with fresh chopped cilantro.