Contains: Nightshades, legumes. Is: Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free.
When I first started cooking out on my own, back in the late 70’s, I ended up with about four cookbooks for the first few years. Two of them were standards for that time, and another was Madhur Jaffrey’s An Invitation to Indian Cooking. Back then, as a college graduate student in the Midwest of America, finding many of the ingredients was a bit dicey, but I prevailed on as I could. (My folks lived in New York City – I found it a culture shock going to “Chinese” restaurants in Indiana after having gone with them to Chinatown back home. And there were NO Indian restaurants out that way.) I did get to make dhals and riatas from her book, but probably not a lot else.
I am so happy that cuisines have expanded geographically over the years and decades since then!
I’ve several eggplant dishes I want to make in the near future, but this one sounds the simplest (and right now I need my life to be SIMPLE)! For one, I really didn’t need to purchase anything (except the eggplant/aubergine). Over the years, I’ve done due diligence in accumulating herbs and spices into my personal kitchen life. I have to say I think cilantro would be more authentic than parsley, but as I didn’t have any of the former – that’s one fresh herb that doesn’t accumulate, and seems to seed out and die off way too early in my garden. It also does NOT dry tastefully. It’s listed here as an option. (Besides there are some who genetically taste this herb as being soapy.)
I also took a little time to consider that most dhal recipes I’ve eaten or made have used cumin as a seasoning, too. So, consider the below a basic inspiration and go from there – because yes, YES, I’m adding cumin and some “extra” ingredients, because, frankly, I love them. I’ll note that typically the author says she does NOT like many Indian dishes, so I have no compunctions about adding more Indian seasonings than she uses. Consider her recipe a baseline inspiration – and if you aren’t all that fond of Indian flavors… please go take a gander at her recipe directly. (And if you end up deciding mine is not for you… don’t blame the inspiration!)
Other changes that really don’t change the dish – I use avocado oil as my high heat and no-taste cooking oil (instead of sunflower), as it is apparently healthier; and ginger paste instead of powder, as that’s what I have. Frankly, the ginger powder I’ve bought back in the day never had much flavor, even when freshly purchased. Actual ginger root, shaved and finely chopped is a great alternative, too. I have some of this, and if life weren’t quite so crazy, I’d have done the root… (it’s somewhere in my freezer).
I’ve also deviated in other ways – I find that eggplant is less bitter if soaked in salted acidulated water. This is less necessary using the Asian eggplant I’m using – but can’t hurt. If I were to use a big purple European eggplant – I’d also remove the skin. I’m fine with skin-on using the thinner-skinned Asian varieties – your mileage may differ in either direction.
One great fun thing about blogging to an international audience, is that one learns the words for various foods around the world. Cases in point: Aubergine = Eggplant. (Just finally added it to the computer dictionary…) Masoor Dal = Red Lentils. Jeera = Cumin.
Prep Time: 40 minutes.
Cook Time: 45 minutes.
Rest Time: Serve hot.
Serves: 3-4 as a main (can also be a side).
Leftovers: Please save and serve up to five days later (refrigerate in the interim).
Eggplant/Aubergine and Lentil Dhal
- 100 g red lentils / 3.5 ounces masoor dal. Provide them split, they’ll cook faster.
- 400 grams / 14 ounces of eggplant aubergine, cubed. I went with the Asian varieties and had two of these. Eggplants will vary greatly in size.
- 2 teaspoons cumin / jeera seed.
- 2 tablespoons of a healthy high-heat cooking oil. I use avocado oil – look at the label for high heat, as not all avocado oil is high heat! If you don’t mind the dish not being vegan, you can always use ghee.
- 1 medium yellow (or white) onion, peeled and chopped. (8 ounces/280 grams)
- 2 teaspoons ginger paste (or finely minced fresh ginger).
- 2 crushed garlic cloves.
- 1 teaspoon chili powder. (Your choice as to heat level, I used a milder ancho chili powder.)
- 1.5 teaspoons ground turmeric.
- 1 teaspoon amchoor powder
- 4 – 6 curry leaves, chopped.
- 300 mL / 10.5 ounces water.
- Sea salt, or pink Himalayan salt, to taste.
- Garnish with fresh cilantro (preferentially) or with fresh parsley.
Let’s make this!
Chop up the eggplant into cubes, removing skin if you are using European eggplant. The Asian varieties have thinner skin and you may leave this on. Soak the cubed eggplant in salted, acidulated water. You can weigh down this with a saucer. Soak for at least 20 minutes. Afterwards, you may chop the eggplant finer, especially if you’ve left the skin on.
In a large skillet, heat to medium/medium high. Add the cumin seeds. Stir rapidly for about 30-40 seconds, as these roast, and aroma is released.
Add the oil, allow to heat, another 30-40 seconds.
Add the onions and render them translucent, stirring often. Say, 5 minutes.
Reduce, and add all the other herbs/spices (NOT the garnish). Turn the heat to low, adding the lentils and the water. Simmer for about ten minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the eggplant, and continue to simmer for 25-30 more minutes. If you need to add more water, do so. (I added 100 grams / 3.5 ounces more) Taste, and if tender enough and ready to serve, plate and add the cilantro or parsley garnish. (You may want more salt to mix in, prior to the garnish, let your taste guide you.)
This will not be a smooth dhal. Which is fine. You can certainly serve this as a main dish.
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