Back in my corporate working-girl days, I would usually make an annual trip overseas to collaborate with my project team members who worked outside of the United States. About five years ago, one such trip took me to Bangalore, India. Although I liked Indian food (at least the “Indian-American” food that I was used to), I was nervous about the food I would encounter in India and was cautious about what I ate while I was there. Every time my travel companions and I went out to eat during our two week stay in Bangalore, I always ordered dhal – just to be safe. If you’re not familiar with dhal, it is an Indian dish made with lentils (among other things). Lentils were familiar and safe, and also really delicious. I was occasionally adventurous enough to sample other Indian dishes that my friends and Indian co-workers ordered, but dhal remained my favorite dish.
This recipe doesn’t compare to the dhal I ate in India, but it is full of comforting flavor and aromatic spices, and my family devoured it. My two-year-old (who ate two bowls), said “Mmm, delicious!” after her first bite. That’s my girl!
I made some yummy naan bread from scratch (see recipe below) to accompany the lentils, but if you’re pressed for time, most grocery stores sell naan in the frozen aisle or bakery. Either way, be sure to include the naan . . . it wouldn’t be an Indian meal without it!
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tablespoons Olive Oil and Garlic spaghetti sauce
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons garam masala (find it in the spice aisle of your grocery store)
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
6 cups chicken broth
2 cups lentils
1 large carrot, diced
1 tablespoon heavy cream (optional)
Sour cream (optional)
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until the onion is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, spaghetti sauce, cumin, garam masala, salt, black pepper, and chili powder. Cook and stir for about 2 minutes, or until the spices are fragrant.
Stir in the chicken broth, lentils, and carrot. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer until the lentils are soft, about 40 minutes.
Using a ladle, pour about 2 cups of the lentils (be sure to include some of the liquid) into a blender, and puree until smooth. Pour the pureed lentils back into the pot and continue to puree the lentils (2 cups at a time) until about half of the lentils are pureed. If desired, stir in 1 tablespoon of heavy cream. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and warm naan bread.
This is a great recipe for naan bread. I used to be intimidated by the thought of working with yeast, but I really enjoy the process of making bread from scratch now. The payoff of fresh, warm bread is so worth the effort. You’ll probably start seeing that I post more bread recipes now that the weather is cooling off and we’re approaching baking season! Hooray!! Cookies and roasts and bread, oh my!
Anyway, back to the naan. It’s really delicious and I encourage you to give this recipe a try. You can find the original recipe here. My version below includes a few changes with the dough rising times and some tips to help ensure that you get perfectly soft and tender results. Be sure to use bread flour which is higher in protein than standard flour, which helps give the bread more volume.
1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup white sugar, divided
3 tablespoons milk
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons salt
4 1/2 cups bread flour (approximately)
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1/4 cup butter, melted
In a large bowl, add the yeast, warm water (about 110 degrees), and 1 tablespoon of the sugar. Stir until the yeast is dissolved and then let stand until frothy, about 15 minutes. Stir in the remaining sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough (I used about 3 1/2 cups of flour).
Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a floured surface, or until smooth. While you are kneading the dough, you will be gradually adding small amounts of flour to the dough to give it the proper consistency. The best way to do this, without adding too much flour, is to put a pile of flour next to your kneading surface and when the dough starts to feel too sticky, dip the heel of your hands into the flour and work it into the dough. Continue this until the dough is very smooth and feels tacky (but not sticky) when you pull it away from the counter (like pulling a Post-It note off of a piece of paper). If you need more help with kneading, there is lots of great information (including videos) on the Internet.
Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 2 hours, until the dough has doubled in volume. If your house is cool, you may want to put the bowl in the oven and turn the oven light on, or in the microwave and leave the door slightly open so the light will stay on. The light will generate the heat the dough needs to rise.
Punch down the dough, and knead in the minced garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a lightly-oiled baking sheet. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat your grill to medium heat. On a lightly floured surface, roll the balls of dough out into very thin circles. Be sure to roll them as thin as you can. Lightly oil the grill. Place the dough on the grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy. Brush the uncooked side with butter, and then turn over. Brush the cooked side with butter, and cook for another 2 to 4 minutes. The naan will get tough if you cook it too long, so watch carefully and turn down the heat, if needed. Remove from grill, and serve warm.