Toor dal, a humble yet deeply delicious flat yellow pigeon pea lentil, is a popular staple in many households in India. It is nutritiously dense, high in fiber, complex carbohydrates, folic acid and protein. I particularly like it in soups because, cooked long and slow, the toor takes on a veloute-like consistency. It makes the base for the delicious South Indian sambhar, and while this soup is a lot simpler version of that, it works as a vehicle for seasonal vegetables - so feel free to adapt based on what is at hand.
makes ~4 servings
1 cup toor dal
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon grated unpeeled ginger
3-4 cloves, chopped
1 stick of cinnamon
3-4 tablespoons olive oil or ghee
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 cup minced scallions
1 serrano pepper, minced
3 cups of green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 cup tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts
1 tablespoon jaggery
2 teaspoons salt
Juice from half a lemon
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
Rinse the lentils 2-3 times and soak for 2-3 hours. Drain, combine with 5 cups of water in a stockpot, and bring to a boil. Discard the scum that may arise. Add the turmeric, ginger, cloves and cinnamon. Turn the heat down, cover the pot, and simmer for an hour or more. The lentils should be soft and completely dissolved.
In a separate frying pan, heat up the olive oil. When it is just shy of smoking, add the mustard seeds and let them pop and sizzle. Almost immediately, add the scallions, serrano and green beans and cook on high heat until they have a little bit of color.
Add tomatoes, peanuts, jaggery and salt and continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
Transfer this mixture to the dal and continue simmering for another 10 minutes. If the dal appears too thick, add half a cup of water.
Stir the lemon juice and cilantro into the soup and serve.
ideas / variations
Jaggery is a unprocessed palm sugar with a caramel-like flavor - substitute with plain or brown sugar.
If you must replace the toor dal, use the yellow moong or the orange lentil.
Replace green beans with carrots, cauliflower or any seasonal vegetables.