One of my favourite frugal tried-and-true recipes is my Lentil Dal. Dal (also spelled Dahl, Daal or Dhal) is a thick stew made from lentils, peas or beans and is a staple food in countries like India and Pakistan. It's a staple food in my home too, because it's inexpensive, nourishing, easy to prepare and delicious!
This lentil dal is particularly versatile. You can serve it hot over rice, or chill it and serve it as a dip or spread (much like you'd serve hummus). I like it on wedges of pita or rolled in a flour tortilla with some cheese and veggies. I've taken this to many potlucks as an appetizer, and always get asked for the recipe.
Last week I had about half a batch of dal sitting in the fridge that needed to be used up, and I decided to try and make burgers with it. My experiment turned out quite well and received rave reviews from all members of my family.
Basic Lentil Dal
1 cup dried red lentils
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth (use water if you don't have either on hand)
1 tbsp canola oil or other light vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
juice of 1 lime
1 tbsp tomato paste (if you don't have tomato paste, you can sub 1/2 cup or so crushed tomatoes, you'll just need to simmer it a bit longer to thicken it up)
1/2 of a 13 oz can of coconut milk
2-4 tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
In a small saucepan, cook lentils in broth until tender (about 10 minutes). Saute onion and garlic in oil until they begin to soften; add spices and cook one minute. Add lime juice, tomato paste, coconut milk and cooked lentils. Simmer until thickened. If you're a cilantro lover, stir in the cilantro for the last few minutes of cooking (personally, I can't stand the stuff).
That's it for the basic recipe! Very quick and easy. If you're going to make burgers with this, I recommend starting with thoroughly chilled dal.
(What to do with the other half a can of coconut milk? It freezes well, so you could save it to make another batch of dal. Coconut milk is a delicious addition to any kind of curried dish. You can also add it as part of the liquid when cooking rice, or use in smoothies or homemade popsicles.)
Lentil Dal Burgers:
1/2 a batch of Red Lentil Dal
1 carrot, grated
1/2 a yellow or red pepper, chopped fine
3/4 cup or so rolled oats
In a medium bowl, combine the dal, carrot, and pepper. Add oats 1/4 cup at a time until the mixture is firm enough to shape into patties (you may need as much as a cup of oats but probably not more than that). Shape into 6 patties.
I pan fried these in a little bit of olive oil; topping them with cheese for the last couple minutes of cooking so the cheese could melt. The patties ended up being a bit on the "squishy" side (i.e. oozing out of the hamburger buns when you took a bite). They may have been a bit easier to eat served in a pita or wrapped in a flour tortilla! I think next time I'll try baking them in the oven at 350F for about 15 minutes or so, which I expect will make them a bit firmer.
I'm always looking for more ways to use red lentils, so if you have a favourite recipe to share, please leave a link in the comments.