Red Lentil Dhal is also known as 'dal', ‘dahl’ or ‘daal’ is that perfect plant-based Asian meal! It is rich, fragrant, and packed with protein and great nutrition and makes a meal you can feel good about having or cooking for your family.
I’m not sure if you are into pulses but I could have these every single day, especially a red lentil dhal like this, I would be a super happy bunny.
I am so lucky my kids love this red lentils dhal too, in fact, they absolutely love it any time especially served with some nice homemade roti or rice of course.
We aim to significantly reduce the meat intake so, a vegetarian dish like this it’s absolutely welcome and truthfully, I do not miss the meat at all.
It’s absolutely delicious and I’ve added some of these quail eggs beauties not only for the extra protein that they offer but also for extra taste, texture and great nutritional elements those add on.
Are red lentils good for us?
The answer is yes, absolutely! Lentils are a superfood as far as I can say. So beneficial for our health and lentils, in general, are a fabulous super ingredient, have a low GI (glycemic index), they are high in protein, they're plant-based and are super nutritious. You can read more about this super amazing ingredients here.
For us here, lentils are always a total winner.
type of lentils
There are four main categories of lentils: brown, green, red or yellow, and some special ones.
Brown Lentils - also known as the continental lentils the most common variety and these can vary in colour from khaki brown to dark black and has a mild, earthy flavour. These are good for salads, stews and soups, good for vegan/vegetarian burgers as they hold their shape very well.
Green lentils are very similar to brown lentils; they have a more robust texture and taste slightly peppery and come in a range of sizes. Green lentils can vary in colour too from pale or spotted green to a green-slate colour with hints of black and blue, these make a great and less expensive substitute for Puy lentils. Just like the brown lentils, green lentils keep their shape really well and combined with their great flavour makes them ideal for salads and sides.
The red ( red split lentils) and yellow variety of lentil range in colour from golden yellow to orange and red. They are sweet and nutty and are the ones very commonly used in Asian and Middle Eastern cuisines ideal for the classic dishes such as my red lentil dhal dish. This variety of lentil disintegrates when cooked, making them ideal for soups, casseroles, pureed or used as a thickener.
There are many other varieties of speciality lentils, but the two most commonly known and used are the beluga ( black lentils) and Puy. Both varieties are about one-third of the size of brown or green lentils and have a rich, earthy and nutty flavour. When cooked, black beluga lentils are shiny, tiny, and black – they look like caviar which is how they got their name. Great for salads and side dishes, they are pretty too especially when mixed with other types like I normally do. Puy lentils are grown in the volcanic soil of a specific region in central France called Le Puy. Puy lentils are known for their dark, bluish-slate-green colour and rich, peppery flavour, they are probably the priciest of all. These can be cooked any way you wish.
A Few more tips for this red lentil dhal dish …
- This red lentil dhal dish can be made both vegan or vegetarian depending on how you like it. It definitely makes a gluten-free yummy dish.
- Do not skip the lemon as a squeeze of fresh lemon juice adds a lot and freshens this dish up beautifully.
- Lentils should not be pre-cooked, simply rinse them before cooking, that’s all. They cook pretty fast as it is.
- Is it freezable? Oh yes, - just allow it to get completely cool and then freeze. Thaw it carefully, ideally by leaving it in the fridge overnight and then reheat to the bubbling point.
- This dish can be frozen for a couple of weeks or more and it can become very handy to make and have some extra made for a quick meal.
- Other ingredients that could be added to this red lentil dhal dish
- red peppers
- a handful or two of fresh or frozen spinach
Quail eggs are obviously a little bit of a fancy add on in here but these can be replaced with regular eggs or even left out completely for a vegan version.
We just love the combination, it’s a great one indeed and if you are an egg lover as much as we are, then hesitate no more.
Let’s get cooking and then tuck in. Enjoy!
Red lentil dhal with coconut milk and quail eggs
- chopping board
- 380 g red split lentils dry amount
- 300 ml water, vegetable stock or coconut milk or additional liquid to make it a soup
- 220 ml coconut milk (1/2 can)*
- 16 quail eggs boiled separately - optional
- 2 tbsp coconut oil
- 2 onions plus extra to caramelise if wished to do
- 1 green chilli optional
- 2 tbsp crème fraîche optional - leave out for a vegan option
- 3 garlic cloves (crushed and finely chopped)
- 1 pinch fennel seeds be generous
- 1 pinch cumin seeds a generous pinch
- 1/2 tsp mustard seeds plus extra for tempering *
- 10-15 curry leaves fresh
- 1 tsp turmeric powder or freshly grated*
- 1/2 tsp black pepper freshly ground *
- Fresh lemon wedges to serve
- Start by boiling the eggs - quail eggs boil in 1 or 2 minutes and the regular eggs boil in 4-8 minutes depending on whether you want them. I love them hard-boiled for this recipe.
- Meanwhile, in a pan on medium fire, add the coconut oil (you can leave 1 tbsp for frying some onion if you want to do that later separately to add at the end). Add the seeds, garlic and onions, turmeric and the curry leaves. Sweat these for a good 2 min stirring occasionally. Add a drizzle of coconut milk or water to avoid frying.
- Put the rinsed lentils and the coconut milk in season and simmer for about 20 min.
- You might need to add some more water in between (approx 300 ml or more to bring to the desired consistency. I like it denser but add more liquid if you wish this to be more like a soup. Add the creme fraîche now if you choose to use. Add a generous amount of freshly ground pepper. Simmer for an extra 5 minutes.
- Serve garnished with the quail eggs, some chilli flakes some fresh herbs (coriander or parsley).
- Additionally, if desired, do the tempering by frying one onion in 1 to 3 tbsp coconut or regular oil until caramelised or nice and crispy. Towards the end add 10-15 curry leaves and the extra 1/2 tsp mustard seeds. Sizzle these for 30 seconds. Sprinkle this over the lentils and serve as desired but ideally with some nice homemade bread.
How to make red lentil dhal in a traditional way
- Wash and soak the lentils - Soak the lentils in water for a few hours. It will soften them and shorten the time these need to cook.
- Boil the lentils - an easy but essential step- cook over low heat for a good 15-20 min (depending on the lentil type you are using ) to achieve this consistency.
- Bring the water to boiling point. You need about 3 times the water for the amount of lentil used. So for 250 g lentils, you will need 750- 800ml of water. You may add more water if you may feel it's required;
- Add the lentils to the boiling water, then reduce the heat;
- Add one teaspoon of turmeric powder to it for some additional flavour as well as colour;
- Skim any floating scum off;
- Cook until lentils are nice and soft, which will take anything between 20-40 minutes depending on the type of lentils used.
3. Season the dhal - add salt and plenty of pepper to your taste
4. Using stock, water or milk - use whatever you like - I sometimes use a bit of everything, start with water, add some stock and towards the end if they still need more liquid, I add some milk.
5. Tempering the spices - is one of the most common methods in Indian, Sri Lankan cooking. Frying a mix of spices over low heat with either butter or ghee until it sizzles and gets all the aroma out of all the nice spices by releasing their essential oils.
how to do the tempering :
- Melt the ghee or butter in a saucepan.
- Add some cumin seeds and mustard seeds and fry over low heat for 2 minutes.
- Caramelise the onion by adding these chopped or sliced in thin slices until light-brown - do not over caramelise them although the more you caramelise these the more flavour you will be getting.
- Add the ginger and the garlic only a little flavour - do not burn the garlic;
- Add the chopped tomatoes once the garlic is light brown,
- Add the ground coriander, curry leaves, garam masala and the dry red chillies, mix all well and add this all to the cooked lentils.
- Add some heavy cream or yoghurt and some fresh coriander (cilantro)