1-1/2 cups red or brown lentils, yellow or green split peas
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 cup chopped onions
4 cups water
1 teaspoon grated, peeled fresh ginger root
2 dried chiles, whole
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 -1 teaspoon garam masala
salt to taste
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1. Wash the lentils or peas in several changes of cold water. In a medium pot, cover them with the water and add the whole dried chiles, turmeric, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, and simmer, stirring often, until very tender. This will take about 30 minutes for red lentils, and 45 minutes for peas. It may be necessary to add more water to prevent sticking, but only 1/2 cup at a time, because the final consistency should be fairly thick. Use a heat diffuser if necessary.
2. When the lentils are almost cooked, heat the oil in a small pan, add the cumin seeds and cook for 10 to 15 seconds. Stir in the onions and ginger and cook until the onions begin to brown, about 5 or 10 minutes.
3. When the lentils are tender, remove and discard the hot peppers. Stir in the onion mixture, lemon juice, garam masala, and salt to taste. Serve, passing additional garam masala to sprinkle on top, if desired.
Spinach Dal: Add 4 cups of chopped, fresh spinach to the onions after they have sautéed for about 5 minutes and then cook for 5 minutes more.
Tomato Dal: Add 1 cup chopped tomatoes to the onions after they have sautés for about 5 minutes and then cook for 5 minutes more.
Spinach-Tomato Dal: Add both spinach and tomatoes.
2 3-inch cinnamon sticks 2 teaspoons cardamon seeds
1/4 cup coriander seeds 2 teaspoons whole cloves
2 tablespoons cumin seeds 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
2 tablespoons black peppercorns
Using a rolling pin, crush the cinnamon sticks into small pieces. Place all of the spices on a baking tray and heat in a 200 oven for 30 minutes. Stir the spices once or twice while they are baking.
Remove the spices from the oven, let them cool briefly, then pulverize them in batches in a spice or coffee grinder. Blend until all the spices are well ground
Store garam masala in a tightly sealed container in a cool, dark place. It is best if used within three months.