Red Lentils (Masoor Daal)

Red lentil soup, also known as Masoor Daal, is a staple in most Indian households, with each family possessing a slight variation in how it's prepared. Jazzed up with turmeric, cumin and other spices and served with veggies and whole wheat bread (roti) or rice, daal is a fixture at every meal, packing a vegetarian protein punch as well as fibre and B vitamins. Most importantly, it is absolutely delicious and soul-warming. My four year old loves it, which is a fact that definitely warms my soul. 

RECIPE

Yield
Serves a family of 4

Ingredients
1 cup red lentils (masoor daal) found in most regular and Indian grocery stores
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 black peppercorns
Pinch hing (asafoetida) found in Indian grocery stores (optional) 
1 tomato grated
Salt to taste (skip for babies)
1 tablespoon coconut oil or ghee
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 garlic cloves finely chopped
Fistful fresh cilantro, finely chopped
Squeeze of lemon juice

Method
Wash the lentils and discard the water. Do this 2-3 times. Soak the lentils in room temperature water for 1-2 hours to expedite the cooking process. 

Discard the soaking liquid (this reduces phytic acid present in many grains and legumes, which acts as an anti-nutrient and can prevent mineral absorption). 

In a pot for which you have a lid, add the soaked lentils, 5 cups of fresh water, turmeric, peppercorns and hing. Bring the mixture to a boil, skimming any foam that arises. Boil vigorously for 5 minutes, continuing to take off the foam (this will reduce gassiness!) Reduce heat to a simmer, cover partially and cook for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are dissolved. If using a pressure cooker, use 3 cups of water, allow 1-2 whistles and cook on low heat for 20 minutes. 

Once the lentils are cooked, add the grated tomato and salt to taste and continue to simmer on very low heat.

In parallel, prepare the seasoning, also known as tadka

Heat the oil over medium flame until shimmering. Add the cumin seeds and stir for about a minute until sizzling and aromatic (but not burnt). Add the garlic and stir until just barely pink, about a minute. Transfer the seasoning to the daal (expect a loud sizzle!) and stir well. 

Fish out the peppercorns, especially if feeding kids. Check for salt and adjust seasoning. Finish with a garnish of cilantro and a squeeze of lemon.