I remember the many colors and flavors of lentil stews that I ate as I traveled throughout the different regions of India. Brown, red, black and yellow-hued savory stews with rice or bread are a perfect comfort food as well as nutritious. This thick lentil or pea stew known in Indian cuisine as Dal, is the way that protein is accessible to anyone, regardless of diet or budget and if you are not vegetarian, you can add a tiny bit of sausage to this dish for flavor. Smoked chorizo or kielbasa would be a welcomed addition for the meat eater on Mealtess Monday without making it the focal point of the dish.
Makes 6 cups
1 cup yellow split peas
1 pound sweet potatoes (yams), peeled, and cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 to 4 dried red cayenne chiles (like chile de arbol), stems discarded
1 tablespoon coriander seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 medium-size tomato, cored, and diced
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt
2 to 3 tablespoons of EVOO
Measure the peas into a medium-size saucepan. Cover with water and rinse the grains three to four times until the water is clear. Measure and pour 4 cups water into the pan and bring it to a boil over medium-high heat. Skim with the foam that forms on the top and discard
Add the sweet potatoes and turmeric to the peas, stirring once or twice. Lower the heat to medium-low and cover the pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are tender but still firm-looking and the potatoes are cooked, 20 to 25 minutes.
While the peas and potatoes cook, preheat a small skillet over medium-high heat 2 to 4 minutes, sprinkle the chiles, coriander, and cumin into it. Toast the spices without burning, shaking the pan very frequently, until the chiles blacken and the seeds turn reddish brown and smell nutty), 1 to 2 minutes and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil and add the tomato and then immediately scrape all these aromatics into the braise mixture.
Lastly add the salt and cilantro. Crank up the heat to medium-high and vigorously boil the dal, uncovered, stirring occasionally, to allow the flavors to mingle and the sauce to slightly thicken, 12 to 15 minutes. If you wish for a thicker sauce, mash some of the peas and potatoes with the back of your spoon. Serve warm with brown basmati rice or flat bread.