Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Red Lentil Dahl with Sweet Potato

This last week, we celebrated the graduation of a very dear friend who is now a Doctor of Veterinary medicine. She is from India so one of the parties was an Indian dinner. I had the privilege of cooking with a couple of her friends from elementary and high school in India.

The food was fabulous and I will post a couple of recipes starting with one that may not be quite traditional. This is my favorite Dahl recipe that I pieced together after much research, trial and error. Dahl is a thick stew or soup like dish made with lentils or split peas. This recipe is made with Red lentils which, besides being a beautiful salmon color, are a good, though incomplete, source of protein. They are also high in fiber and some B vitamins.

It may look like it has a lot of ingredients but many of them are optional. Even the list of spices can be streamlined by using a ready-made curry powder, if you prefer.  Make this as complicated or as easy as you like.

I serve this a bit on the brothy side on a bed of basmati rice and topped with a dollop of thick greek yogurt.

Red Lentil Dahl with Sweet Potato

2 tbsp vegetable/ olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped ( red onion is a good choice but any will do)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut in small chunks
1 – 1 ½ TBSP ginger paste, or minced fresh ginger
3 garlic cloves, chopped or 2 tsp garlic paste
Spices*: 1 1/2 tsp. coriander
2 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp. ginger
½ tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp powdered chili pepper or red pepper flakes ( may use less)

You may add additional, optional spices- ½-1 tsp pumpkin pie spice and/or cinnamon or a tsp. curry powder (preferably red)
Salt and pepper to taste,
2 tsp brown sugar, optional
About 3 -4 cups of vegetable broth, depending on how “soupy” you want this. You may use some water in place of broth
One can ( about 14 oz) coconut milk, optional ( If you don’t use it add an extra cup or so of water or broth
2 TBSP tomato paste, very optional
1-2 tsp chili garlic sauce, optional
½ tsp or so Srirachi Asian hot sauce if you want to make it extra spicy
1 ½ cups red lentils
* You may substitute curry powder for the individual spices.

Sort and wash the lentils in cold water and strain until the water is clear so the lentils won’t be "scummy".
Add oil to a large saucepan over medium or med-low heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens for about 5 minutes. Raise heat to medium and cook 2 more minutes then add ginger, garlic, curry spices and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add sweet potato and continue cooking for a few more minutes.

Reduce heat, pour in broth (water), and stir in the lentils and tomato paste, if using. Taste broth and add curry paste or extra spice if needed. If it needs more heat, add a bit of cumin or red pepper. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the lentils break down and the sweet potatoes are tender, 20-30 minutes. Check spice level again and season with salt and pepper.
Serve on basmati rice with a dollop of Greek yogurt on top.


  1. Hmmmm! Delicious! You always cook various kinds of food and I'm admired of your talent in cooking. Hopefully I can work on non-Japanese food more by looking at food blogger's recipes and my family can enjoy different kinds of food at home!

  2. Well, this one is very different than Japanese food :-) Your children might not be ready for something so different but I think it is good to try different foods with kids, little by litle introducing them to new tastes. I love cooking a variety of foods and I have friends from many places that help me learn new recipes from "home." Thanks for all of you Japanese and other recipes! Your blog is a great source of new ideas!

  3. Congrats to your friend! This dahl looks like the perfect celebratory dish!

  4. Thank you. The Dahl was just one of several dishes but was a nice addition. The star was chiken curry, and I will have a guest post from the friend that made that in a coulple days along with my recipe for saag paneer. And a couple dessert recipes :-)

  5. Denise, this looks wonderful. I am a lover of Lentils and my family eats them about 1-2x a week. I shall add this next time to our meal. Thanks for sharing. Great Job! : )