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Today’s recipe comes from Shannon of Homemade Families. She is a wife, mom, and midwife living in California with her family. She is one of the sweetest people I have met and should some mystical magic happen and I find myself pregnant, I’d fly her to Morocco to be my midwife! I hope you enjoy this story and recipe from her kitchen.
Thirteen years ago, I was a young, hungry new college grad. I could boil pasta, make grilled cheese, and throw together a salad. My husband’s parents came to California from Karachi in the mid seventies. When my husband found himself a young, hungry new college grad, he asked his mom how to make the food he grew up with.
Needless to say, his culinary traditions were more preserved than mine. And the aroma coming from his apartment was delicious. Tired of my vegetarian fare, I finagled an invitation for dinner. I hadn’t touched a lentil before. I probably hadn’t eaten turmeric before either. As the daal (Urdu for lentils) boiled and boiled, the smell seemed familiar and comforting. After a long wait, the simple meal of lentils and rice was ready. It was the most delicious thing I’d ever tasted. I’m embarrassed to recall, that I may have said it tasted like macaroni and cheese. I meant it as a compliment.
The only thing I couldn’t fathom was cooking something that took more than twenty minutes to prepare. Again, I went for lentils, but this time I wanted to see how they were made. I watched the hard, yellow, lentils simmer and simmer, never losing their shape, until finally after hours, they melded into a golden, fragrant mass. Nothing was measured with a proper teaspoon, rather a plastic spoon was used to toss the colorful spices into the pot.
While we waited for the daal to cook, we had plenty of opportunity to talk. The hours that passed allowed us to fill our hunger with conversation and the expanse that life as a new grad presents. Eventually, we married. Three children later, we still enjoy a simple meal of lentils and rice. Only now, I know that lentils come in myriad shapes and sizes. The one we cook now, cooks about as fast as macaroni and cheese. I look forward to the day, that as the daal cooks, we can resume our good conversations.
For now, I present to you a nourishing, simple soaked lentil recipe.
Soaking the lentils the night before optimizes the nutrition you receive from the lentils. Ask anyone who has lentils as a staple in their traditional foods, and they will tell you that their mother or grandmother used to soak lentils. Phytic acid, contained in lentils is broken down through soaking, which allows the B vitamins and other minerals in the lentil to be absorbed in your intestine. It also reduces the cooking time, which may or may not be desired ;).
Don’t skip out on the baghar, the spice perfumed butter. It is an ancient technique used since Vedic times to infuse dishes with flavor. Heating ghee to a very hot point and then quickly frying fragrant spices in the ghee, imbues the ghee with scent and flavor. It is all then folded back into the daal.
We like to cook our lentil in chicken stock. Not only does this add flavor, but it also adds protein and other vitamins and minerals. Chicken stock contains easily absorbable calcium, magnesium, and other minerals. It also contains gelatin, an amino acid that helps with immune function and healthy skin, hair and nails.
Here’s to your good health, and to food bringing about love and happiness!
- 1 cup red lentils
- 2 cloves of minced garlic
- ½ tsp turmeric
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp cayenne pepper
- 4-6 cups of chicken stock
Soak one cup of red daal with enough filtered water to cover. Soak for six to eight hours.
When ready to cook, strain the daal and add to pot.
Add garlic, spices and chicken stock.
Stir, bring to a boil.
Skim the froth from the top and leave to simmer until lentils soften, about 25 minutes.
Baghar- Spice Perfumed Butter
- 2 cloves minced garlic
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 dried red pepper
- 2 TBS ghee
Heat ghee over medium high heat.
Heat until fragrant, being careful not to burn spices.
Add to daal, stirring to combine.