Indian Spiced Lentils: Hello Daal-y

Lentils are one of my favorite foods. They are so hearty and satisfying, but not at all heavy or greasy. When properly cooked, they are creamy but not mushy, acting as a thickening agent for whatever they are in. I love them cold with crisply fried bacon and a mustard vinaigrette and hot in a comforting winter stew. One of the best ways to enjoy them is in Daal – Indian-spiced lentils that are vegetarian, inexpensive and easy to make. Well…my version is easy to make. And it isn’t Daal as much as it is an Indian Influenced Lentil Stew. So it isn’ really daal. It’s more daal-y.
So of course I have to call this recipe Hello Daal-y.
You can thank me later. 
The thing about this recipe is that these measurements are just guidelines – loose guidelines. I like my stew very spicy, so if you don’t – cut out the jalapenos. Don’t love turmeric? Cut it! Want more smoky flavor? Toss some cumin in there. Bottom line, you can taste as you go with this recipe, and though the tastes will intensify as the stew sits, you can always alter them. 
Ingredients:
1 Lb. lentils
2 Boxes chicken or vegetable stock
1 Large can crushed tomatoes
2 Garlic cloves, diced
2 Onions, diced
4 Thbs. curry powder
1 Thbs. turmeric
2 Tsp. fenugreek
3 Dried curry leaves
2 Tbs. minced ginger
2 Jalapenos, diced
2 Tbs. sugar
1 Cucumber, diced
2 Large bunches cilantro and mint
Greek yogurt or sour cream to taste
Vegetable oil, salt, pepper to taste
 1) Saute the onion, garlic and curry leaves in a large stockpot over medium-high heat until the veggies turn translucent.
 2) Add the jalapenos and continue to saute for 10 minutes.
 3) Rinse the lentils thoroughly, running your fingers through the lentils to make sure that there is no grit or bad lentil hiding in there.
 You can pick out any “bad” lentils you see, but you mostly just want to rinse the lentils until the water runs clear.
 4) Now add all…
 of your…
 dry spices. 
 The scent of curry and fenugreek should instantly waft up to you and make your mouth water. 
 5) Remove the curry leaves and discard.
 6) Add the can of crushed tomatoes.
7) Add the chicken stock.
 8) Add the lentils. Turn up the heat to bring the mixture to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium and let the dish simmer for 30 minutes, or until it has thickened considerably and the lentils are tender. 
 9) In the meantime, combine the cucumbers, cilantro and mint in a small bowl.
10) Taste the stew for seasonings, garnish with chopped veggies and yogurt/sour cream and serve.

This dish is so satisfying. It is spicy, savory, complex and stick-to-your-ribs hearty. The lentils are tender yet meaty, the tomatoes are soft and acidic, the jalapenos add a lip-tingling heat and the sugar balances it out. The curry is the star of this dish – if you make it correctly, your clothes, hair, EVERYTHING should be scented with fragrant, deep curry. Might want to take a shower before you go anywhere. The curry leaves themselves add an herbal aromatic note – though they are only in the stew in the very beginning, they go a long way to lightening up the flavor profile of the dish. Fenugreek adds a light tanginess to the dish and the result is a punchy, spicy, Indian inspired stew. I usually suggest you serve dishes with something, but this is really a complete meal all on its own. It actually tastes better the day after you make it. Love when that happens.

Hello, Daal-y.