Eatin’ on the Cheap: Dahl
By Joanne Gibson on September 1st, 2009
I was never very good at chemistry. In my first year as an undergrad, I worked my butt off for a credit (that’s about 70% in Australia). I had an assignment due the next day and I knew it was going to be a late one. I was a smoker back in those days, so having cigarettes for a night of study was MUCH more important than nutrition. I had $10 in my pocket, and at the time cigarettes were $7 (they’re much more expensive than in the US). So this left me $3 for the nutrition component of the evening. I paced the aisles of the grocery store until I came across lentils.
The thing about this dahl recipe is that you have to buy the spices when you’re relatively ‘rich’ and then they’ll last you for ages and all you need are lentils and an onion… and some rice to serve it over (but you probably have that in the cupboard anyway). Anyway, this recipe served me well throughout my studies. I couldn’t touch the stuff for about 5 years after school, but it was great at the time.
Some recipes have fresh ginger or garlic or 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon or tomato paste. I liked to put a butternut squash and a small tin of coconut milk in it… that gave it a really nice flavor.
- margarine or oil
- 1 onion (finely chopped)
- 1tsp cumin
- 1tsp coriander
- 1tsp turmeric
- 1/4 tsp cardamom
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 tsp chili powder or cayenne pepper
- 4 cups of water (or vegetable broth)
- 1 cup dried red lentils
Heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion (and garlic and ginger if you’re putting those in). Cook until onion is translucent. Add the spices and cook briefly. Add the water or broth and lentils and bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 30 mins or until the lentils are tender. I would add the butternut squash about 1/2 way through this cooking time and then the coconut milk near the end. Stir it up a bit also.
I used to stockpile lentils and rice and then I’d just pick up an onion on the way home since you can find those at most corner stores. The great thing about dahl is that it’s cheap and easy and there are a million variations, so it’ll keep you interested for a long time!