Dal is an everyday Indian dish made from split peas or lentils, and is usually served with yogurt and rice or bread. A dal made with red lentils is called Masoor Dal. This dish is a staple in my home throughout the cold weather months, because it’s such a quick and hearty meal, and I can throw in fast-cooking diced vegetables like carrots or sweet potatoes to add texture. Jazzed up with a little lime juice, yogurt, and a cooked whole grain like rice, quinoa, or millet, it makes a perfect lunch for an impatient cook.
The dried dal mixture, a blend of red lentils and spices, is another gift that is easy on the giver as well as the receiver. All the lucky recipient of your gift has to do is cook the mixture on the stove for 20 minutes with water, onions, garlic, and ginger. For the giver, this is an inexpensive gift that you can make several portions of for a couple of dollars each. Once you have all the ingredients, assembling the mix takes only a few minutes.
The one extra detail I recommend is to make the mix with whole spices, toast them yourself, and then grind them in a spice grinder or coffee grinder. You can absolutely use pre-ground spices in this recipe, but fresh, toasted spices provide a more robust flavor, and make your gift that much more special.
I like to present this gift in a glass jar – an old pint-sized Ball jar or Mason jar is perfect. The instructions for making the dal are short, and can fit on a colorful card tied around the jar. The ingredient list fits on the back of the card.
Regarding the quantities of spices in the recipe, I tried to err on the side of mildness. Try making this soup before giving it as a gift – it will take less than half an hour! – and see if you’d prefer it to be spicier. You can adjust the spices, and personalize your gift by discovering your own recommendations for serving.
1 cup red lentils
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
2 teaspoons mustard seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cayenne powder
To make the mixture, start by toasting the cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds. To do this, heat a sauté pan over high heat. When the pan is hot, add the whole spices. Stir frequently for two minutes, then transfer the spices to a plate to cool. Grind the spices in a coffee grinder, and sift them through a fine mesh strainer to remove large bits of shell or skin.
Pour the spices into a large mixing bowl, and add the lentils. Stir. Pour the mixture into jars and seal tightly.
Instructions and ingredients for recipe card
Front of card:
Pour the contents of the jar into a medium saucepan. Add 1 cup minced onions, 2 minced garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger. Stir in 5 cups water and bring to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add salt to taste. Serve garnished with fresh lime juice, rice, and yogurt. Makes approximately 5 cups of dal soup.
Back of card:
Ingredients: red lentils, cumin, coriander, mustard seeds, turmeric, cayenne