Orange Dal

February 22, 2011 § Leave a comment

E: This is an easy Indian dal that I got from GF-Zing!, a blog for gluten-free eating that is run by the the mother of one of our friends. It takes about 45 minutes or so to make, but really just requires the occasional stir during that time. It is lovely, warm, and spicy, and the orange/cinnamon taste is unique in my experience. The original recipe is baked in an oven-safe pot or dish, but we did ours on the stove top like we usually do for dal.

You will need: (from this recipe)

1 onion, sliced
1 tsp fresh orange zest
Juice of 1 orange
2 cups lentils (red, green, yellow split, whatever you want really)
3 tbsp ghee, butter or olive oil (the source says ghee/butter is tastier, but we made this with olive oil, cooking the spices in it briefly, and had no complaints)
1 tbsp. ground cumin
1 tsp whole cumin seeds (or add another tsp of ground cumin)
1 tsp turmeric
1-2 tsp red chili flakes (optional)
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vinegar (you can easily omit this)
4 cups water
2 tsp salt (or to taste)

Start out preparing the onion, orange, and the lentils. Make sure you wash the lentils well, and watch out for anything inedible packaged with them. (I’ve found a couple twigs occasionally.) When that stuff is done, you are ready to start cooking.

Melt the butter or heat the olive oil in the bottom of a fairly large pot. Toss in all the spices, and cook those over medium heat for just a minute or so. If you are using whole cumin seeds, consider putting those in before the ground spices, as you don’t want anything to burn.

lots of colourful spices

After the spices have cooked in the oil for about a minute, add in the lentils, water, orange juice and zest. Turn up the heat, and bring everything to a simmer.

about 5 minutes in

Simmer the lentils for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once you’ve done this a couple times you get a sense for how much water boils off. I suggest leaving the lentils at least partly covered for the first 20 minutes.

add in the onion

After the 20 minutes are up, add the onion. Notice how much water has boiled away. This is good. You’ll want to be a little more diligent in stirring from now on, but once every couple of minutes is fine. I generally leave the cover off at this point, unless the dal gets really dry. If things look too dry, add water a little at a time. Then you’ll have to balance cover-on/cover-off to get the right consistency. But don’t worry, if you use your head you won’t ruin anything. Simmer this for another 15-20 minutes. The onion will release some water, and you’ll find the lentils start to come apart into the liquid a little.

this looks done

The green lentils used here stay together a bit longer than red ones do. Test for done-ness in two ways. First, there shouldn’t be too much water left. Second, the lentils should be tender.


Serve with rice, and garnish with cilantro or parsley to give the whole thing some contrasting color. We used some dried parsley here because it was all we had. Enjoy!


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