As the school year kicks off, we all fall back into the wonderful triangle of student cooking: Cheap, tasty, and nutritious; pick two. Fortunately, we at the Athenaeum have you covered. Over the course of the year, we’ll be sharing some of our favorite ready-to-cut-out recipes that are delicious, easy to make, nutritious, and cheap.
Vegetarian Lentil Dahl
Lentils have been a staple crop in many cultures for thousands of years. They are classified as a pulse – a category of “grain legumes” that are grown specifically for the dried seed, unlike peas or green beans. Tolerant to drought and disease, and relatively quick to grow, there are records of lentils being grown in in India and Turkey for almost 13,000 years. They persist to the modern day, being an integral part of modern crop rotation cycles – as a pulse, they renitrogenate soil before or after a grain crop has grown in the same field. Though it isn’t commonly known, Canada is the largest producer of lentils in the world – out producing the next three lentil-producing countries (India, Turkey and Australia).
Lentils have remained a staple for so long with good reason. A half cup of lentils provides the average person with all of their fibre and half of their protein for the day. Not to mention, lentils are incredibly high in mineral micronutrients like phosphorus, zinc, and iron, in addition to many B-vitamins. Despite their high nutritional value, lentils have not been subject to modern health food crazes that have promoted other, more exotic grains and pulses into fashion. Between this lack of temporary popularity and their domestic nature in Canada, lentils remain a very affordable staple in almost every grocery store.
Vegetarian Lentil Dahl
Prep Time/Cook Time: 15m/60m
• 400g (1 and 2/3 cups) red lentils
• 2 tsp turmeric
• 4tbsp unsalted butter
• 2 tsp cumin seeds
• 1 small onion, finely chopped
• 3-4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
• 1-2 fresh green chilis, finely sliced (remove seeds if you want to keep the heat down)
Additional Ingredients (if you have them)
• 1 tsp garam masala
• 1 tsp coriander
• thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
• 2-3 cooking tomatoes, chopped
Preparing the Lentils
1. Place the lentils in a pan and cover with enough water that it covers them by an inch. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a simmer.
2. Stir in the turmeric and about half the butter. Cover and leave on low heat.
Aromatic Spice Mixture
3. In a small frying pan, dry-fry the cumin seeds (medium heat) until toasted. This should only take a couple of minutes. When done, set them aside.
4. Melt the other half of the butter in the same frying pan that previously had the cumin seeds and gently fry the chopped garlic, onion, and chilis (as well as the grated ginger and tomatoes, if you’re using them). Once the garlic is golden, mix in the toasted cumin seeds (and the garam masala / ground coriander, if on hand).
5. Once mixed, remove from the heat until the lentils are completely softened.
Putting it Together
6. When the lentils are done, they should have the consistency of porridge. Add more water as necessary (they get thicker surprisingly fast).
7. Mix in your aromatic spice mixture, then serve on its own, topped with some more coriander, or on rice.