I’ll be the first to admit that lentils, beans, chili are not the best-looking dishes. I’ll also admit that a well-prepared daal can be comforting, filling and satisfying enough to overlook the unfortunate aesthetic challenge. Most uncooked beans are beautiful and vibrant in color. I found vibrant red azuki beans at my local ethnic grocery store and ironically lured by their beauty bought them without ever having cooked the beans before. It became my culinary experiment for the weekend. After an unsatisfying recipe search online, I decided to treat it like any other daal.
- First step, boil the lentils (red, split pea, yellow, azuki, kidney, urad etc.) until soft. Add atleast double amount of water…more water the bigger the bean. These azuki beans were soft within an hour over a low simmer. You want the water to cover the beans by atleast an inch.
- Add tumeric and salt. A teaspoon of each for every cup of lentils is usually enough.
- The next part is where you can get as fancy or keep as simple as you like. Saute in ghee or the oil of your choice: onion slices for a basic daal….at this point you can also include: garlic, ginger, tomatoes, cumin seeds, garam masala, coriander leaves, dry chili peppers, bayleaves, depending on what you have. You can also add coconut milk or cream for the heavier beans like kidney or azuki to give the daal a heartiness. On the other end of the spectrum for a light summer daal you can boil and strain red or yellow small kernel daals, add lemon juice, cilantro and mint for a bright broth.
- Pour the flavored oil over the beans. Mix in or leave the flavored oil and toasted spices floating above the rich soup. Enjoy as a soup or with rice or bread.
My failed search made me realize that I can make deshi dishes as simple or as complicated as I want. Let your pantry decide for you. If you have the spices use it, if you don’t, staples of onions, garlic, and chili flakes are enough. For the azuki soup, I included almost everything mentioned above. I was happy with how it turned out. Smooth and luxurious because of the cream, spicy because of the peppers, sweetly warm because of the garam masala and cinnamon. Try your own version soon. Throw in your pantry of spices or don’t. Either way the beans will do most of the work.