Oct 21, 2009

Green lentils-- the Tarka way

I am going to write about a recipe which is very popular in India. It is called 'Tadka Daal'-- which literally translates into 'Sautéing lentils or sprouts with spices'. It can be made into a gourmet dish or  a regular fare at roadside eateries or one which is served over Indian bread during family dinners. But all of of the variants are great to taste. The dish is vegetarian. And a bucket of good quality protein. But there is, a slight problem.


This one takes time. So if you are tired and want to walk in to a good but quick meal-- this isn't for you, at least today. If you are impatient, like me, its best not tried.  However, if you have some time on your hand (like an hour and half) and if you can plan beforehand-- this is a dish that will jazz up the way you think of lentil stoup. In fact, this recipe makes for a lazy, creative afternoon time in kitchen with a book to read or anything else to do, because largely this is a hands off dish --there is also no need to babysit it. You actually spend less than 15 minutes in the kitchen.
This can serve as the main dish by itself  with a side of garden salad and some bread.You can feed an army of people for cheap. Besides, you earn a place as a gourmet chef. Not bad-- for 15 minutes in the kitchen.

So all the disclaimers in place. Lets get on with it. One quick suggestion. Since this is not something you can make while your coffee gets cold..its best  trying to make it with a mood for abundant cold coffee :)


1 cup of green lentil. Soak it overnight in a container filled with water at room temperature. Do not refrigerate. The soaking will allow the lentil to become soft and will cook fast-- an essential step towards cooking green lentils. You might see a bit of white froth the next morning-- do not call 911. Its the baby  plant inside the seed (you do know that lentils are seeds..right? :)) that is trying to grow up-- breathing and photosynthesizing, releasing carbon dioxide and sugar. That's the white froth. Rinse it away and you are good to go. 
Alternatively, you can use 3 cups of sprout green lentils (you find those too). Saves the preplanned overnight soaking

1 big onion- chopped
3 medium size tomatoes- chopped

1 tbsf grated ginger
1.5 tbsf powder cumin
1.5 tbsf powder coriander
A pinch of turmeric
A pinch of Cayenne powder
2 tea bag. Use regular tea. Unflavored and not green.
2 tbsf lime juice
1 tsp Sugar

3 cloves
2 cardamom
A bit of Cinnamon stick
1 bay leaf

3 tbsf oil
5 cups of water
Salt for seasoning
Cilantro or parsley and lime wedge for garnishing.

Let's begin :)

In a deep covered pot, place the soaked, and rinsed lentils or the sprouts. Pour water 3 cups of water. A Bring to boil and let it go for good 40 minutes. After 30 minutes or so  the boiling process, add the turmeric, cayenne, half a tbsf each of the cumin and the coriander powder and tea bag. This tea bag will infuse the flavor-- a secret ingredient into the lentils. No one tells you this. I learn't this by chance. Scoop the tea bag out after 10 minutes and turn off the heat.

Next in a skillet, heat the oil. Once hot, pop the cardamom, cinnamon, cloves. Remember to smash them up a bit to release the trapped air in them. Will prevent them popping out of the skillet. Wait ! 15 secs for the aroma. Lower heat, add the onions and saute till brown for 3-4 minutes.  The lowered heat allows for browning of onion in less oil. Something which we are always after :) Add the tomatoes and keep sautéing for another 3-4 minutes till the tomatoes lose their individuality. Add the ginger, sugar, rest of the cumin and coriander powder and saute for a minute. Add the boiled lentils along with any water left. Stir to mix in everything. Add the rest of the water ( remember warm water is best; will trap the flavors better), lower heat to simmer, cover and...leave the kitchen. Let it go for another 30-40 minutes. Check every 10 minutes to give a  stir and prevent sticking to the bottom. Add water if it is going super dry. Use your discretion.  Half a cup at a time. No more than that.

Once done, season with lime juice and salt. One big stir. Wait a beat. Take it off the stove and garnish wit lime wedges and Cilantro. What a great way to get your proteins too!

Great with bread and a garden salad. on a fall evening with some red wine.

Happy eating and healthy living!


Palidor said...

I've never eaten tarka. It looks incredibly delicious! Great tip on infusing the tarka with flavors from the tea bag.

Fairy Footprints said...

Wow sounds healthy and looks great. I will have to try this receipe, how wonderful that you have so many receipes, I feel like I hit the jackpot.


Cathy said...

This would be right up my alley! Love lentils, but have never had them this way. They look similar to a dish I get at a local Ethiopian restaurant though.

Jhonny walker said...

@ Palidor : see what I mean. Indian resturants never serve the actual authentic food. This is one of the most common one any where. Its really nice.

@ Fairy:- Thank you. And I am glad you like them!!

@ Cathy: Ethiopian and Indian do have some stark similarities. Although Ethiopians use nut more than Indians do.

girlichef said...

Tarka sounds absolutely worth that bit of effort!! Love the "secret" tea bag :D Thanks for sharing this.

Anncoo said...

Never try tarka before. Wonder how its taste like.

Chow and Chatter said...

looks good girlie and like the addition of the tea bag I have left an award on my blog for ya Rebecca

Jhonny walker said...

@ Rebecca: Thanks..thanks and more thanks :)

@ girlchief -- You bet!

@ Ancoo-- if you have never tried it..its a must. It tastes spicy yet not hot. And given the recipes you write..I am pretty darn sure its totally to your taste :)

Natashya KitchenPuppies said...

I make a lot of lentil dishes for my daughter who doesn't like to eat meat. I love the spices in this dish - the use of the tea bag is brilliant!

Erica said...

I love to cook lentils, my husband is a vegetarian and is one of his favorite foods. That sounds delicious.

The Japanese Redneck said...

Interesting. Lentils are something I've been meaning to try.


Jhonny walker said...

@ Natashya : Me too..I love lentils..kind of my sub for meat protein :)

@ Erica: Thanks...but I bet your hubby does not sulk..given the lovely dishes you have

@ Ramona-- you GOTTA give lentils a try! they are terrific :)

Nat said...

You're absolutely right, this would be perfect with some nice bread and a green salad on the side. Lentils is a definite WONDER food in my books and also so economical. When it comes to lentils I enjoy best when cooked the southern asian way. This is excellent and I think 'no pain no gain'...its so worth the time invested.

Anonymous said...

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