It’s healthy, tasty and easy to make. With split pulses or lentils as its main ingredient, dal is a good source of protein, fibre and iron, making it the comfort food you can enjoy freely without feeling disgusting afterwards.
I first discovered dal during an extended camping trip in the Northern Territory in 40C heat. As the main storage option was the boot of the car, that narrowed down the meal options somewhat.
A two-step dal mix that could be heated up on the camp stove in minutes soon became the star dish on a menu that otherwise consisted of two-minute noodles, pasta and jar sauce and bland tinned soup. And back in the city, with the many options that refrigeration and a fully fledged kitchen affords, dal remains a staple.
An everyday dish across India, there are seemingly endless varieties to try (many of which are vegan), from refreshing tomato or light coconut-based dals to rich dal makhani (which means butter in Hindi). Plus you can easily adapt it and add whatever veggies need using up. Many don’t require the dal to be soaked first and can be cooked in under 30 minutes. If you’re less of a guts than me and have leftovers, I hear it lasts well in the freezer too.
I suggest finding one or two that work for you and sticking with them. That way you can skip having to choose a recipe and write a list before you go shopping and cook it, as it’s somewhere in that process that I usually replace one of those steps with “get takeaway”.
My go-to recipe is Meera Sodha’s quick coconut dal in her book East. She came up with it shortly after having a baby when she was “still a little broken and exhausted”: so, you know, manageable for those of us with regular energy levels but who are less advanced in the kitchen.
The yellow soupy goodness topped with a zingy tomato sambal is very satisfying. And if that’s too tricky, grab the pre-prepared packet dal next time you go to the supermarket.