red lentil

I am a big fan of lentils of all kinds. They’re super versatile, tasty and perfect for a vegetarian diet, as this legume packs a good amount of protein. This recipe, adapted from the book Homestyle Vegetarian published by Bay Books (strangely there’s no author named) is nice because it has an Indian flair, which I like. Any time I cook with red lentil (dal) I get sentimental (it even rhymes!) and enjoy revisiting other dal recipes, like this soup, this pilaf, or this red lentil cabbage soup. I think I’m obsessed.

fried red lentil patty with leafy salad

fried red lentil patty with leafy salad

I made this dish for an early dinner on the day we happened to have a solar eclipse. We are blessed with having our kitchen, dining and living rooms with a Western exposure. So in the afternoon on most days, these rooms are flooded with beautiful sunlight. On that Sunday at a certain point the sunlight dimmed in an odd way. We’d just assumed that the fog was rolling in. But not so: the sky was clear. For five or perhaps ten minutes, it all looked strangely dark and ominous. Could Edward, Bella and the Cullen entourage be joining us for dinner? Would we be the dinner? I heard vampires don’t like garlic so I think we’d probably have been safe.

eerie view of the solar eclipse

eerie view of the solar eclipse: full sun yet it's dark out

The original recipe for this latest dal delight calls for breadcrumbs, which I lacked at the time. It also asks for green peas, another item I didn’t have. So I improvised. This was supposed to be made into patties and fried in oil. I tried that but thought they got too oily. So I prepared a few patties or rissoles and the rest ended up as balls, which I baked in the oven till golden brown.

large plate of baked red lentil croquettes

large plate of baked red lentil croquettes

red lentil (dal) rissoles, patties or croquettes

2 cups red lentil, rinsed
1 large white onion, cubed small
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp ground coriander
3 carrots, diced small
1/3 cup chopped walnuts
1 cup fresh frozen organic lima beans – steamed al dente
3 tbsp canola oil
Olive oil
1 cup oatmeal
~1 cup cream of wheat
Black pepper
Kosher salt
1 tbsp nutritional yeast

Put canola oil in a saucepan, crank temperature up, add cumin and cook until aromatic, about a minute or so. Throw in onions and cook until translucent. Add carrot, garlic and continue cooking for another minute. Then add lentils, salt, pepper, and 3 cups of water. Stir to combine then cover. Bring to a boil then lower temperature to medium and cook, stirring every now and then, to the point lentil dissolves and becomes pulpy, about 20 minutes. Remove the lid towards the end if lentils look ready but still watery this will allow the mix to firm up a bit. Likewise add a bit more of water if not ready. You don’t want it to be soupy.

frying up the red lentil patties

frying up the red lentil patties

Remove from heat and let it rest for about 10 to 15 minutes. Mix in lima beans, walnuts, nutritional yeast and oatmeal. Adjust flavors if needed. Add just enough cream of wheat to allow the lentil dough to be shaped. Mine needed approximately 2/3 of a cup.

If you are frying add a layer of oil to a frying pan, while oil heats up, shape patties to the size and thickness you like, coat with cream of wheat and fry them for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a platter lined with paper towels to soak up oil excess. I fried 4 of them.

these red lentil croquettes just need a splash of olive oil to be ready for the oven

these red lentil croquettes just need a splash of olive oil to be ready for the oven

With the rest I shaped them into ping-pong size balls, drizzled them with olive oil and baked them in the oven at 450F for about 12 minutes.

Serve with leafy salad.


I made this tasty and healthy dish from germinated red lentils. Hegui sprouted them from dried a few days before. Inspired by all the fresh herbs in our community garden plot, I used a mix of chive, mint, Italian parsley, sage and lemon thyme. Any combination might do. The kale stems are sort of optional. They add a nice green color. And of course we have a huge abundance of them with the success of the kale right now. What do you do with your leftover kale stems?

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

This sauté reminds me of a warm salad. Fragrant from the herbs and nutty, the lentils are a bit crunchy, too.

germinated red lentil sprouts with fresh garden herbs

2 cups germinated red lentil sprouts
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 cup kale stems with some leaves, finely sliced
3 tbsp olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
Salt and black pepper to taste
1 to 2 tbsp fresh herbs: chive, mint, Italian parsley, sage, thyme

Heat olive oil in medium skillet. Add onion. Sauté on medium until onion becomes translucent. Add kale stems and garlic. Sauté a bit more then add white wine, cover pan and allow to steam. Add sprouted red lentil and fold vegetables together. Add salt and black pepper to taste. Cover and cook until lentils heat through. Mix in fresh herbs. Serve.


I sprouted my own lentils after reading about their many nutritional benefits, ease of digestion etc. You can read more about the benefits of sprouting here and here.

germinated red lentil sprouts

germinated red lentil sprouts

Sprouting your own seeds and grains turns out to be incredibly fun. Really it takes me back to my childhood. Did you ever grow seeds in the science lab at school? Wasn’t that awesome? I remember we sprouted corn, beans, rice and other seeds in cotton balls in little jars and cans. It was so cool seeing life reaching out for sunlight. I remember that I nibbled on some without even knowing how tasty or wholesome they are. I was a curious child. Had I known, I might have gone into a new line of work: sprouted grains. Then, I’d be totally rich now and my cellar packed to the brim with first growth Bordeaux. What a dream…

When the experiments were over, some of these seeds, mostly the corn, would make their way back home where I would plant them in our vegetable garden. It was magical seeing the transformation from freaky science experiment to sturdy plant. I still like to play in the dirt.

But back to my kitchen… I had a cup of whole red lentils in the cupboard that kept falling off the shelf every time I grabbed something from there, so last week I decided to put them to use. Sprouting is very simple to do:

Day 1: Pick lentils over, removing stones and damaged seeds. Soak lentils in fresh water for about 6 hours, drain, rinse, spread on a ceramic tray partially covered with something opaque. I used another ceramic tray. Place in a cool place in the kitchen away from direct light.

Day 2: Rinse three times, being careful not to break the tiny shoots that look like little hooks already appearing attached to most of the seeds. Return to the same tray with cover.

Day 3: Repeat process from day 2

Day 4: Repeat process from day 3.

By now sprouts should be about 1cm long. If they’re not long enough or you wish a bit more length, repeat process from Day 2. Otherwise uncover and let sprouts receive more sunlight (indirect) to photosynthesize. Tips of the sprouts will turn green. One afternoon should do the trick. Spray a bit of water on seeds if you notice them drying out. Rinse again, place in a plastic bag and store sprouted lentils in the fridge for up to one week.

These lentils, now considered ‘live,’ tasted sweet, nutty, grassy and had a bit of a crunch… simply delicious.

You can eat them raw or cooked, added to sandwiches, stir-frys, breads, omelets and salads.


Everybody throughout the northern hemisphere is probably eating summer food right now; you know: barbecue, ice cream, sno-cones, watermelon, and most anything grilled. Not us! The heat wave that has sent temperatures soaring past the 100’s elsewhere has yet to reach San Francisco. So we’re ‘stuck’ in the almost eternal refrigerator chill that makes the City by the Bay that much more unique. Yesterday was typical. The sun peeked out early in the afternoon, but then as night began to fall, the fog blew in and temperatures plunged. So San Francisco. We all know that nothing’s better than a warm, spicy bowl of soup on a cold day, whatever the season. So that’s my inspiration. If this sounds appealing to you, then bookmark the recipe for winter 😉 or come for a visit sometime soon.

Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

This is based upon another soup that I’m partial to: vegan spicy Indian red dal. The advantage of making dal soups is that you can improvise, adding many different ingredients that will completely alter the flavor and texture, giving them new dimensions. This time I added Savoy cabbage, which I do not believe is a typical Indian vegetable.

To me, Savoy cabbage looks like a mixture between “regular” and Napa cabbage. It has the spherical shape of the former but the leaves are tender and wrinkled, like you see in the later. Savoy is sweet, and healthy, of course. Like broccoli, cauliflower and the other cabbages, it is a member of the brassica family. I love that name, “brassica,” which is why I’m constantly writing it on the blog. Plus they’re good eating and very versatile. They’re especially successful in soups, like here, or simply sautéed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper.

key ingredients for Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

key ingredients for Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

Indian red lentil soup with Savoy cabbage

½ cup of red lentil, picked over and rinsed
1 stalk celery, chopped
¼ tsp turmeric
2 medium carrots, diced small
3 medium onions chopped
2 tbsp grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp grated fresh garlic
1 tbsp yellow mustard seeds
5 Roma tomatoes, peeled and diced
½ head Savoy cabbage, chopped
1 Poblano pepper, seeds and ribs partially removed, cut into small squares
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp ground chili pepper (e.g cayenne)
4 tbsp canola oil
½ bunch chopped cilantro
Wedges of lemon

Place lentils, turmeric, carrots and celery in a large pot. Add about 5-6 cups of water. Bring to a boil and cook, covered, until soft. These foam up a bit so to avoid a mess, keep lid partially off. Stir every now and then to prevent sticking. Add a bit more of water if needed but don’t overdo. Lentils are ready when soft and mushy with a thick consistency. Turn temperature down, add cabbage, cover pot and let simmer.

Toast cumin seeds in a large pan for a couple of minutes just to bring the aroma out. Transfer to a dish and set aside.

Using the same pan, add oil then mustard seeds and fry them. As they begin to pop, about a minute or so, add onions, Poblano pepper and sauté until onion becomes translucent (about five minutes). Push onion mix to one side of the pan. Add garlic and ginger. Cook until raw smells are gone but avoid burning. Stir everything together. Add toasted cumin seeds, chili pepper, coriander and cumin powders to onion mixture. Stir again. Add tomatoes and a cup of water. Bring to a boil then reduce temperature to simmer and cook for 10-12 minutes.

Pour onion/tomato mix over lentils and fold together. Add salt to taste. Simmer for another 10-12 minutes. Stir in cilantro.

Serve with basmati rice and a wedge of lemon.

see what I mean about the fog

see what I mean about the fog?


tofu and green-pea dal

by Heguiberto on February 4, 2011

By now my Indian dal soups are all about improvisation. I feel comfortable using most of the Indian ingredients and can sort of predict what a soup will taste like if I add more of one spice versus another. It is fun to have that confidence because now I can utilize whatever ingredients are available in my kitchen pantry and still make a delicious meal.

tofu green pea dal

tofu green pea dal

Of course my Indian cooking knowledge is still miniscule! I’m not putting on airs, here. Indian cuisine varies widely between regions and the country itself is enormous. But I’m learning and I’m still enchanted by it, and that’s what matters.

One of the most important lessons that I’ve gotten so far is not to be too exacting about ingredients. And that brings me to tofu. Yep, tofu. That’s not something that you’ll ever see in an authentic Indian kitchen, though if you ask me, it should be.

I find it intriguing that tofu never “made it” in Indian food. You’d think that it would be a sensation! Just look at the wildly successful introduction of some New World ingredients like peanuts, tomatoes, potatoes, hot peppers or cashews. Tofu didn’t need to travel nearly as far as the potato. What’s the problem? Could it be politics that kept it out?

This soup is totally vegan and extremely healthy and flavorful. There is something magical about tomatoes, ginger, cumin and mustard seeds combined with lentils!

tofu and green-pea dal

1 package firm tofu, cut into bite-sized cubes
1½ cups red lentil, picked over and rinsed
¾ tsp turmeric
3 ribs celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 28oz can of tomatoes with juice
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 tbsp grated fresh garlic
¾ tsp yellow mustard seeds
½ Poblano pepper, minced with ribs and seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp canola oil
½ bunch cilantro, chopped
2 cups fresh or fresh frozen English peas
Kosher salt to taste
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Soak tofu in a warm saltwater bath for about a half hour to absorb some flavor. Rinse and set aside.

Add lentils to pressure cooker with enough water to submerge by an inch. Add onion, turmeric, celery and carrot. Cook for 4 minutes after pan starts to whistle. Shake the pan a couple of times to prevent sticking. Remove pan from heat and let cool. Using a stick blender, blend soup till smooth. Set aside, keeping it warm.

Meanwhile, add canola oil to a pot on high heat. Add cumin and mustard seeds. Cook for a couple of minutes. Mustard seeds will pop. Add ginger, garlic and minced Poblano pepper and sauté until raw flavors are nearly gone. Be careful not to burn it. Add tomato paste and stir, add canned tomatoes, salt, pepper and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add peas and tofu then fold sauce into blended lentils. Lastly gently fold in chopped cilantro.

Serve over rice, like this one with carrots and cumin.


weirdcombos-style red lentil dal & olive pilaf

According this cool book about the history of Indian food that I’ve been reading, Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors, by Lizzie Collingham; pulao, pilaf, pilau and paella are essentially the same term for Eurasian rice dishes from India to the Iberian peninsula. Steven and I had a big discussion about it over Shirazi baked polow.

Since the terms are “generic” in the sense that they simply mean rice dishes, why not create your own version of a pilaf, polow or paella? That’s how I arrived at this recipe. I adore olives and red lentil dal, though I cannot really recall having them together before, can you? To me, the dish is sort of pan-Eurasian, embracing India on one side and Spain and Portugal on the other.

The lentils dissolve while cooking and, with the tomato paste, give the dish an exciting orange-ish red color with a pleasing earthy flavor. The olives are salty and briny, which I think works great. The result is fabulous, nutritious, tastes great and is so easy to make.

weirdcombos-style Red Lentil Dal & Olive Pilaf

1 cup rinsed basmati rice
1 cup rinsed red lentils
1 shallot, minced
1 bay leaf
1 whole clove garlic
1 tbsp tomato paste
1¾ cup hot water
4 tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Kosher salt
1 cup pitted, halved kalamata and Spanish olives

Using a deep pan, sauté shallot in 2 tablespoons olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, rice, red lentil and salt to taste and continue sautéing to coat everything with oil. Meanwhile dissolve tomato paste in hot water and add to rice mix. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover pan and let it cook for about 15 minutes, stirring a few times to prevent sticking. Remove from heat and let it rest, covered, for 10 minutes. Just before serving toss olives in and mix to combine. Drizzle with remaining olive oil. Top with freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve.

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Are you prepared for the task of making this mouthwatering red dal soup? Don’t be discouraged by the extensive list of ingredients. Like I’ve mentioned before, cooking Indian recipes is thrilling because it’s like being back in school doing scientific research in a chemistry lab. Plus unlike regular chemistry, it always smells great and you can eat the final product!

spicy Indian red dal soup

spicy Indian red dal soup

I think that this dal and my rasam are my best Indian soups. I just love the explosion of flavors in my mouth with each one. If you like Indian dals I encourage you to try this recipe at home. It’s a crowd pleaser and though there’re a lot of ingredients, it’s actually very straightforward to make.

For those of you not familiar with the term ‘dal’ it is the word Indians use for legumes such as lentils, peas and beans. Red dal is split red lentil.

rosé is a good choice with spicy red dal soup

rosé is a good choice with spicy red dal soup

a Vegan Spicy Indian Red Dal Soup

2 cups rinsed red dal
¼ tsp turmeric
1 stalk of celery, chopped into small bits
2 medium carrots, in small cubes
1 tbsp brown sugar
7 cups of water
8 peeled ripe fresh tomatoes, cubed
2 tbp canola oil
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
10 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
4 medium onions, chopped
4 jalapeño pepper, minced, seeds and ribs removed
¼ tsp asafetida
¼ tsp chili pepper
2 tbsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tbsp peeled and grated ginger with juices (approx 3 inch piece)
½ bunch cilantro leaves, chopped
Kosher salt to taste

How to:

Add dal, turmeric, celery, sugar and carrot to a pot with 6 cups of water and cook until lentils collapse and dissolve, about 20 minutes. Stir it few times while cooking to prevent sticking. Skim foam that may form at the surface during cooking. (If you are using a pressure cooker like I did for mine, turn heat to high, once the whistle starts blowing cook for three minutes. Remove from heat. Shake the pressure cooker a couple of times while cooking to prevent sticking.) Keep warm.

Place cumin and coriander seeds on a skillet and toast them under high heat until you sense volatile aromas permeating your kitchen. Do not burn it! Transfer seeds to an electric mill and pulverize, or, if you’re athletic, utilize a mortar and pestle for the job. Don’t use store bought powders as the result will not be the same. Toasting your own plays a significant role in the final flavor of the dish. Set aside

In a new pan, heat oil then add mustard seeds and sauté them till they pop, about a minute. Stir in asafetida. Add onion and pepper. Sauté till onion becomes translucent and soft. Be careful not to burn the onion. Add powdered cumin, coriander, grated ginger and give it a good stir. Add tomatoes and a cup of water. Bring temperature to boil and then lower heat to medium and simmer for about 15 minutes. Transfer the mix to cooked dal. Add salt to taste. Simmer for another 8-10 minutes, stir. Lastly add chopped cilantro reserving few leaves for decoration.

savoring the red dal

savoring the red dal

I served this soup with spinach bolani purchased at the Alemany Farmers Market here in San Francisco. Bolani is an Afghan type of bread that consists of two thin flour tortilla/crepe/pita-like disks pressed together with sautéed spinach in between. Delicious! If I had not had the bolani I would’ve served this soup with my carrot cumin basmati rice.

This dish is hearty, healthy and very low in fat but high in protein.

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