½ cup yellow lentils, look for little stones and discard
Note: These could be yellow split peas (chana dal), split pigeon peas (toor dal) or split moong beans (moong dal). All are yellow in color.
½ cup red lentils (masur dal), look for little stones and discard
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (2 inches x 1 inch x 1/8th inch), finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
½-1 fresh green Thai, cayenne or Serrano chiles, or more to taste, stems removed
Note: Raghavan calls for 2 to 4 of these chiles. Go for it if you really like hot food.
2 tablespoons ghee or canola oil
1 small red onion, finely chopped
1 large tomato, cored and finely chopped
2 tablespoon finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
2 teaspoons salt or more to taste
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
30 medium-size fresh or frozen curry leaves
Note: These are really good but it is not the end of the world if you have to leave them out.
1. Place both kinds of lentils in a medium-size saucepan. Fill the pan with water and rinse the lentils until the water runs clear. Then add 3 cups water (or stock) and bring to a boil. Skim off and discard any foam on the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, partially cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentil are tender and soft, 12 to 15 minutes.
2. While the lentils are cooking, combine the cumin seeds, ginger, garlic, and chiles in a mortar, suribachi or mini-food processor and pound until they are crushed to a gritty, pulp-like paste. Don’t worry if the cumin seeds don’t break up much.
3. Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in the ghee or oil and immediately add the onion and the spice paste. Stir-fry until the onion is lightly browned and the chiles are pungent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the tomato, cilantro, salt, turmeric, and curry leaves. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, uncovered, until the tomato pieces break down, 2 to 3 minutes.
4. When the lentils are cooked, add the sauce and stir once or twice. Pour ½ cup water into the skillet to deglaze it; add the water to the lentils. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pan, and simmer stirring occasionally until the lentils have absorbed the flavors, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve hot or warm. You can make this ahead and reheat just before serving.
Makes 4 cupsAdapted from Raghavan Iyer's 660 Curries