Red Lentil Dal with Mustard Seeds as Pseudo Soup

Onion cutting had always been a painful, eyeball drenching task for me, until I discovered this failsafe method: ski goggles. A matchstick in the teeth worked partially, but the issue is the chemical irritant onions release when their cell wall is breached. Basically onions are the vegetable equivalent of a skunk. But don a pair of goggles and lo, you are protected by a plastic barrier. You look a little bit like a serial killer at the kitchen counter, but it’s worth it.


Been gorgeous weather here in New Orleans. All blossom and bee buzz. Seems a little counter intuitive to participate in the usual winter routines, such as making soup and hearty bread and cozying around a hearth, blanketed. I’d rather be on my porch—and dal seems a perfect tropical sort of pseudo-soup to accompany me. And healthy to boot. Enjoy with flatbread!

 autumn-in-nola red-lentil-soup

Red Lentil Dal with Mustard Seeds

Adapted from Food and Wine

4 cups red lentils

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/4 cup ghee (clarified butter)

1 1/2 tablespoons brown mustard seeds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

1 large onion, minced

1/4 cup minced peeled fresh ginger

One 28-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 serrano chile, minced

2 teaspoons ground coriander


  1. In a large cast-iron casserole, combine the red lentils with the bay leaves, turmeric and 12 cups of water and bring to a boil. Simmer over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until the lentils break down to a thick puree, about 40 minutes. Discard the bay leaves.
  2. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the ghee. Add the mustard and cumin seeds and cook over moderately high heat, 
stirring, until the seeds start to pop, about 1 minute. Add the onion and ginger and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is softened and lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, chile and coriander and cook until the tomatoes just start to break down, about 5 minutes. Season the tomato mixture with salt and pepper.
  3. Stir the tomato mixture into the dal and cook over moderate heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with yogurt and chopped cilantro, cucumber and tomato.


One thought on “Red Lentil Dal with Mustard Seeds as Pseudo Soup

  1. Dal is sooooo divine, and this recipe looks like a good one! Indeed, dal seems like the perfect sort of soup for your not-exactly-wintry weather in NOLA 🙂 Also, your flowers are so very lovely, bright, and cheerful! Love you and your home! 🙂

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