Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Garlicky Brown Lentils with Pearl Onions


A hearty dal, store bought whole wheat tortilla (or soft homemade rotis) and a quick salad of cucumber, onion, carrots and tomatoes makes a healthy, fuss-free, nourishing dinner.

And dinner like this have sustained us quite a few times, this past summer.


With all the packing, shifting and settling down, I hardly had time to cook elaborate dinners. And because of my super delicate digestive system, eating out on a regular basis was not an option either.




If you have been following my blog, you'll know how much in love I am with beans, lentils and legumes of various kinds. They are my comfort food of sorts. Meaty, hearty and chock full of nutrients, they are almost an entire meal in themselves. Complex Carbohydrates, Protein and Fiber - beans, lentils and legumes meets every criteria of a diabetic platter. No wonder they are the pillars of a healthy diabetic diet. 


This dal combines the hearty robust texture of Brown Lentils (Kala Masoor Dal or Whole Masoor Dal) with the sweetness of pearl onions and a mellowed garlic flavor.

[Pearl onions are a pain to peel. Many sites like this, recommends blanching them in boiling water and then shocking them in ice bath. But while it does help with peeling, the crunch of the onions is lost. This is what I do. I soak them in warm tap water for 15 to 20 minutes. The warmth of the water and the long soak is enough to soften the onion skin and it comes off pretty easily.And the crunch is retained.]

This recipe is loosely adapted from my Mother-in-Law's recipe. She doesn't use garlic and instead of pearl onions, she chops a regular onion in big chunks.

Being a garlic lover, I used garlic. A lot of it, actually. But instead of adding it in the tempering, I cook them along with the lentils.The garlic becomes super soft during the cooking process and disintegrates in the lentils, perfuming the dal with a heady but mellowed garlic aroma. A simple tempering of cumin seeds, tomatoes and minced ginger and a generous garnish of cilantro rounds of this comforting dal.



Texture wise, the Brown Lentils (Whole Masoor Dal) is very different from the Black Lentils (Whole Urad Dal). While the Black lentil is high in starch, and renders a creamy texture to the resultant dal, the brown lentils holds their shapes and had a bite to it.

For me, Dal Makhani is like grandma's love - cuddly and all pampering. And this dal is like Mother's love - strict but deeply nurturing. But Pure Love, nonetheless....


Recipe Snapshot: Brown Lentils with Pearl Onions

Serves: 6 serving
(1 serving = 1 cup)

What I used:
Brown Lentils (dry) - 1.5 cups

Pearl Onions - 1 bag (1 pound approx)

Garlic - 1 head, skinned but kept whole

Cumin Seeds - 1 tsp

Ginger - 1 small knob, grated or finely minced

Tomato - 1 medium sized, roughly chopped

Green Chilies - 4 (or more), whole or slit, depending on your taste and heat tolerance)

Cilantro/Coriander Leaves - 1/2 cup packed, finely chopped + more for garnishing

Oil - 1 tablespoon

Ghee - 1 tsp

Salt to taste



What I did:

1. Soak the pearl onions in hot tap water for 10 to 15 minutes. The outer skin softens and it much easier to peel. Peel all the pearl onions and keep aside. Peel the garlic cloves too and keep them whole.

2. In a pressure cooker combine the washed lentils, water and garlic. Pressure cook for 1 whistle on medium high heat. Once the pressure is released, add the onions and pressure cook on high heat for 1 more whistle. Release the pressure after 5 minutes. The lentils would be tender, but still hold their shape And the onions will be cooked but will still retain their shape.

Alternatively, you can cook the lentils on stove top too. It will be great, if you could soak the lentils in hot water for couple of hours. It would cut down the cooking time. But its not mandatory. Unsoaked lentils will not take more than an hour to cook. Combine water, lentils and garlic. Do not add salt. That will toughen the lentils. Bring to a rolling boil and then reduce the heat to medium. Cover and cook for 30 to 45 minute, stirring intermittently and adding warm water whenever needed. The lentils must be submerged in water at all times. Add the pearl onion when the lentils are almost 80% done (roughly at the 40 minutes mark). Cook till both the onion and the lentil are tender but still holds shape.

3. By the end of the cooking process, the garlic is mushy and it disintegrates into the lentil stew. Cooking the garlic with the lentil, mellows the sharpness of the garlic and makes the lentils incredibly flavorful. 

4. In a large wok or skillet add 1 tablespoon of oil and teaspoon of ghee (clarified butter). Heat it over medium high heat.

5. Add the cumin seeds and lower the heat to medium. 

6. Once the cumin has stopped spluttering, add the finely minced ginger add fry till its slightly golden.

7. The chopped tomatoes goes in next. Cook till the tomatoes are slightly mushy.

8. Add the garlic infused lentils along with the cooking water. Season the stew with salt. Crank up the heat so that the lentils come to a boil. 

9. Once it comes to a boil lower the heat and let it simmer for 5 minutes. If needed, add more water. The resultant dish is slightly soupy. Also, add the whole (or slit) green chilies and finely chopped cilantro/coriander leaves, while the stew simmers.

10. Serve warm with an additional garnish of chopped cilantro/coriander leaves. Its best eaten with soft rotis, but can also be eaten by itself or with dinner rolls.

Notes:
Pearl onions are a pain to peel. Many sites recommends blanching them in boiling water and then shocking them in ice bath. But while it does help with peeling, the crunch of the onions is lost. This is what I do. I soak them in warm tap water for 15 to 20 minutes. The warmth of the water and the long soak is enough to soften the onion skin and it comes off pretty easily.And the crunch is retained.

Diabetic Platter:
Lentils, a small but nutritionally mighty member of the legume family, are a very good source of cholesterol-lowering fiber. Not only do lentils help lower cholesterol, they are of special benefit in managing blood-sugar disorders since their high fiber content prevents blood sugar levels from rising rapidly after a meal. But this is far from all lentils have to offer. Lentils also provide good to excellent amounts of seven important minerals, our B-vitamins, and protein—all with virtually no fat. The calorie cost of all this nutrition? Just 230 calories for a whole cup of cooked lentils. This tiny nutritional giant fills you up—not out.

Read More: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=52

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