Archive for November, 2012

Traditional Toor Dal (also known as Pigeon Peas Lentils)

This particular recipe reminds me of my childhood and the days when I used to come back from school starving and looking for food.  I was always pleased by the aromatic fragrance coming from the kitchen.  I could always conspicuously tell that it was my favorite Toor dal made with the traditional redolent Tarka (Indian seasoning).  It’s a simple recipe with not much prep involved, and if you can soak your lentils first in water for at least 15-20 minutes before cooking, it could cut the cooking time into almost half. Moreover, soaking lentils or grains maximizes nutrients. Basically, soaking renders the nutrients in grains to be more digestible and easily assimilated by our bodies.  Use of a pressure cooker is optional, but if you have one, using it would cut down to only 10-15 minutes of cooking time. Otherwise, it generally takes about 25-45 minutes on a stove top.
(Note: If using a pressure cooker, put a table spoon of olive oil or butter as it helps to reduce the foam from rising up, keep the skins of the lentils popping off, and clogging up the vent tubes of the pressure cooker).

Ingredients for Dal:

*2 cups of Toor dal or pigeon peas (washed, soaked and drained)
*3 cups of filtered water
*1 levelled teaspoon of red chilli powder (use less if you don’t like spice that much)
*1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon of turmeric powder (I use 3/4 teaspoons of turmeric since I never skip on the opportunity of using this miraculous healing spice)
*1 to 1 and 1/2 teaspoon of good quality sea salt (don’t use table salts, they damage your health and are stripped away from powerful minerals)
*1/4 teaspoon of garlic powder

Ingredients for Tarka:
*1/2 cup of Ghee or clarified butter (substitute Olive Oil if you’re vegan)
*1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
*5-10 whole round dried red chilli peppers (you can use the long ones too)
*5-7 garlic cloves (cut in slices either horizontally or vertically)
*5-7 leaves of fresh or dried curry leaves


Transfer washed and drained lentils to your choice of cooking pot, along with all the ingredients needed for Toor Dal above.  Let it boil first, then turn down the heat to low-medium simmer and don’t cover the lid fully as it can boil over from foaming. Cook until it’s soft to touch and breaks easily. In a regular cooking pot it will take between 20 to 40 minutes depending on your stove top, heat, quality of lentils and cooking pot, so keep checking.  If you’re using a pressure cooker look at the instructions above and basically cook for 12 -15 minutes.

When the dal is soft,  add the Ghee in another cooking pan along with garlic slices and let it cook until the garlic turns light brown. Then add cumin seeds, red dried chilli, and curry leaves and let it all cook for another minute. Turn off the heat beneath the lentils and carefully add the hot Ghee with all of the seasoning on top of the dal.  (This process can be a little intimidating for beginners as it makes a *chuun* sound when added to the lentils and its better to stay away from the pan and hold it away from your body when doing it)  You can also have the lid of the lentils pot in the other hand so when you’re adding the Ghee in the lentils, you can cover the other half with the lid and quickly pour all of the Ghee over and cover the lid entirely so it won’t splash and the aroma stays in.  All of the action of your Tarka will subside in a minute. Then you open the pot, smell the fragrance and serve your traditional Toor lentils.

You can either eat it with white basmati rice, traditional naan bread, a tortilla, or by itself like a warm soup.  It’s your choice. Enjoy!  🙂

Read health benefits of Toor lentils here.