Waaaaaay back in August, I told y’all about going to The Whip In for a lunch of delicious Indian food, which I can probably credit as sparking my insatiable desire for all things curried, coconutted, or cumined.*
*Those last two are just now officially becoming words.
What I remember most about The Whip In, however, was not the incredibly spicy and flavorful Curried Eggplant Ratatouille, but rather a phrase I saw while perusing the online menu:^
^You are lying if you don’t do this compulsively before going to a new restaurant. I know you are.
And that got me thinking (as I am so very often wont to do)…What would happen if we combined Southern American cooking with our [typical Americanized ideas of] Indian food?
Probably something like this:I’d been wanting to make a dhal from the assorted collection of lentils and split peas I had in my cabinet for a long time––and the sudden inspiration of a Deep South-infused Indian* dish led me to this conclusion:
The best thing about this dish (and similar dhals,^ whether made with lentils—as I once thought they all had to be–or other beans) is how simple it is to make. Start with some basic flavoring agents…*
^Or dals, daals, dahls…
*And yes, I did look up “category in cooking for onions” because I didn’t want to call them a spice or a seasoning and couldn’t remember what you would consider them, really.
I then like to add my lentils or peas directly to the dish, sans(krit*) liquid.
*from which the word dhal is derived
I do not know why I do this. A lot of recipes told me to. I imagine it has something to do with seasoning and toasting the lentils or peas…especially if I actually had a bunch of oil left in the pan.
But I didn’t. Do it probably proved to do nothing for the flavor of the dish.
Regardless, you’ll want to squeeze in some vegetable broth and add a bit of water.
Get that rockin’ and rollin’ and deglazin’ and all that good in’ stuff it does.
Bring that up to a simmer, and get excited after awhile as the lentils/peas start to soften, along with the sweet potato and the eggplant.
I generally prefer my dhal* (like my brownies) thick and gooey, so I only add water when it REALLY needs it (as in, the lentils are not yet soft and everything is completely dry in the pot).
*I had Kirsten. But then wanted Felicity. She had the red hair, but they didn’t release her until after Grammie had already committed hundreds of dollars to the collection of Kirsten-related Swedish doll-sized artifacts and clothing.
By all means, add more water or broth/stock if you like (or need to). Once you’re ready, stir in the okra.
I do this last so that the okra stays a bit firm at first (and also a bit green…as dhal is not that glamorously pretty of a dish).
Let that cooking (adding more liquid if you need to) until the okra are to your munching likeness.Serve with some raita* made with soy, coconut, or almond milk yogurt.
*An Indian yogurt-based condiment, similar to Greek tzatziki, featuring grated cucumber, lime juice, mint, cilantro, garam masala, and other assorted spices.This dish also can be thinned out a bunch in reheating and served over spinach…perhaps with some vegan-friendly Pita Bites crumbled on top in imitation of a pappadum?You’ll be happy to know, also, that I actually made this original recipe weeks ago, but saved it because of its vegan nature.It thaws and reheats beautifully, with the addition of some water* or vegetable broth.
*You might need to return to the 90s and (re) spice up your life if you use water.
I kind of dig that.
Hopefully you do too.
1 cup chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
1 Tbsp. freshly grated (or minced) ginger
1 Tbsp. diced, seeded jalapeno
1 cup red, yellow, or brown lentils [or a combination]
2 cups diced sweet potato [about 1/4-1/2″ cubes]
2 cups cubed eggplant
2 cups sliced okra
4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) tomato paste
4 cups vegetable broth
2 cups water
1 bay leaf
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. ground coriander
1 tsp. turmeric
1/4 tsp. ground cardamom
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
1. In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, saute onion, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno in a smidge of oil or cooking spray until just beginning to soften.
2. Add sweet potatoes, bay leaf, and spices, stirring well to coat and combine. Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly.
3. Add lentils to the pot, and cook for a few seconds to ‘toast.’
4. Pour in vegetable broth and water. Stir in tomato paste and eggplant.
5. Bring dhal to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer. Cover and cook 30-45 minutes, stirring every so often, until lentils are soft and thickened.
6. Add okra to the pot, stir well, and cook until soft…but not mushy. [Add more water if you need to!]
7. Serve with a vegan raita, vegan crisp crackers, or brown basmati rice.