Are you feeling a bit chilly this week? Maybe fall has moved in for good where you live and evening temperatures are dipping quite low now. If so, you'll definitely want to make this dal soon!
This is another one of those minimal-ingredient one-pot meals with big flavor. It's a cross between a curry and dal; one of my favorite go-to meal formats for easily combining warmth, nourishment from root veggies, greens, and anti-inflammatory spices, and protein and fiber from beans (or in this case split peas) and a grain or pseudo-grain served alongside.
In fact, if you're trying to cook more meat-free dishes for veg-skeptics or meat and potato lovers, this is the meal to make. I love it for its warm but uplifting flavors (a combination difficult to achieve from other cold weather comfort foods such as mac & cheese or lasagna) that leave me feeling happy and satisfied, thanks to the combination of sweet, earthy beets and sour tamarind paste. In a pinch you could substitute lime juice for tamarind paste. But if you love curries and Indian flavors, I would encourage you to take a little trip to the Asian market for a few essentials such as tamarind, brown mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Then you'll be set to make another favorite, this Lazy Lentil Soup. It's an oldie but a good one!
I hope this Beet and Split Pea Dal provides you the same warmth and comfort it's given us this season!
Beet & Split Pea Dal
Notes: The recipe calls for cumin seeds, which give a brighter, more predominate smoky flavor than ground. But you can substitute 1 3/4 tsp. ground cumin if that's all you have on hand. Lime can be used in place of tamarind in a pinch. If you have greens on hand you can throw them in in the last 5 minutes - as pictured. But lately, I've enjoyed sautéing them separately in some coconut oil with minced ginger and a squeeze of lemon and serving them on top of the curry. Your choice, but for a quick meal this is great even without the greens.
- Generous knob of ghee (or coconut oil)
- 1 1/2 tsp. brown mustard seeds
- 2 tsp. cumin seeds
- 1 heaped tsp. ground turmeric
- Big thumb-size piece ginger, minced
- 1 chili, minced
- 2 cups (400 gr) yellow or green split peas, rinsed (optional pre-soak for quicker cooking)
- 7-8 cups (1.6 - 1.9 L) water
- 2 - 2 1/2 tsp. salt
- 2 medium raw beets
- 3 Tbsp. tamarind paste (or juice of 1 lime, or to taste)
- 1 small bunch kale or Swiss chard, de-stemmed and roughly chopped (optional)
- Heat ghee in a large heavy-bottomed Dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add brown mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric, ginger, and chili. Stir to coat in ghee and toast until fragrant (~1 minute).
- Add split peas. Stir to coat in spices. Add 7 cups water and 2 tsp. salt, raise heat to high, cover, and bring to boil, reduce to strong simmer.
- While water is coming to a boil, chop beets in medium bite-size pieces (I leave the skin on), and add to the pot.
- Cook, covered, at a strong simmer for 20-40 minutes until peas are tender with a bite. Cook time will depend on whether peas were pre-soaked. Add more water if you prefer a thinner consistency (Note, this is not pureed split pea soup! Cook peas until tender but still hold their shape.)
- Wilt in greens the last 5 minutes of cooking, if using. Stir in tamarind, taste to adjust for salt. Serve over rice.