I woke up with a sore throat today, and I haven’t felt like eating very much. When I’m sick the only thing I want to eat is soup. Chicken soup is great, but when I want something heavier I make Dhal soup. Dhal (or Dal) is a traditional Indian dish that is made by simmering lentils with spices, and it is often served over Basmati rice. This dish is popular with vegetarians because the combination of lentils (a legume) and rice (a grain) creates a source of complete protein.
I like to drink Dhal from a mug (my own version of cup-of-soup), and I’ve been drinking it that way since I was old enough to hold a cup. Although, when my grandmother was around I’d eat it from a bowl because she would make it special for me. I use to watch her carefully shape the dumpling dough into little boats, and float them in my bowl while everyone else had to settle for the plain, oval-shaped dumplings. It was a little thing, but it made me so happy.
So these days, I drink Dhal from a mug. Which is fine, because it means that I can bring the delicious steam that rises off the top closer to my nose. To be honest, I don’t always make the dumplings, but they were really necessary when I was living off this soup during my elimination diet. It makes the soup very filling!
There is no single way to make dhal as the recipes vary from region to region. Some people add curry powder, mustard seeds and carrots, and others add butter, saffron and pimento. I use grape seed oil instead of butter (to cut down on the fat), and I finish the dish the way my mom always does: with a fragrant cumin oil.
Cumin, also known as Geera, is a key ingredient in this dish. It adds a warm earthy flavour that can’t be replicated by any other spice. It’s also great in chilli and stews, so if you don’t have any at home be sure to grab some from the grocery soon.
- 1 cup all-purpose flour plus ¼ cup for flouring your hands to roll the dumplings
- ½ tsp baking powder
- ¼ tsp garlic powder
- ¼ tsp ground roasted cumin
- ¼ tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ⅔ cup water
- 1 tbsp grape seed oil
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 1 shallot, chopped
- 2-3 cloves of garlic, smashed
- 1 small red Thai chilli or piece of habanero pepper, finely chopped
- 2 cups yellow split peas, washed
- 1 tsp turmeric
- 1¼ tsp sea salt
- ½ tsp fresh ginger, grated
- 8 cups of water + 2 cups reserved
- 2 tsp grape seed oil
- 1 tsp whole cumin seeds
- Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.
- Add enough water to create a soft dough, adding small amounts at a time. You do not need to knead the dough, just pull it together with your hands.
- Cover the dough with a damp cloth and let it rest for 30 minutes.
- Add the grape seed oil to a large pot and place over medium-high heat.
- When the oil is hot, add the onion and shallot and cook for 2-4 minutes until they soften and brown.
- Add garlic and chilli, keep stirring and cook 1 minute more.
- Add the split peas, turmeric, salt and stir to combine.
- Add water, and cover the pot and bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer 30-35 minutes until soft.
- Remove the soup from heat and use an immersion blender to puree the soup.
- Return the pot to medium-low heat and add the remaining two cups of water.
- Stir until well incorporated.
- Form dough into small dumplings and drop into the soup. Simmer for about 8 minutes, or until the dumplings float. Adjust seasoning to taste, if needed.
- Heat the oil over medium heat. Once the oil is hot, add the cumin seeds and keep a close eye on them. When they become dark brown and fragrant, remove the mixture from the heat and pour over the soup.
- Serve warm and enjoy.