Monday, February 20, 2017

Mung Bean Lentils with Peas

Koraishuti Diye Kacha Mooger Dal
Lentils are an essential part of any Bengali meal. They're kind of boring on their own, so adding a simple vegetable like green peas to mung bean lentils takes it out of the ordinary into the extraordinary, especially when accompanied by chopped tomatoes and ginger. On a cold winter's day when everything outside is blanketed in snow, there is no other comfort food like a bowl of steaming lentils over a mound of rice.

I generally cook red and mung bean lentils on the back burner over a low flame while the burners in front are being used to cook the rest of the meal. It's easier to cook lentils in a pressure cooker, but they tend to turn to mush whereas stovetop cooking produces a more al dente texture with more of a bite. 

These mung bean lentils have not been toasted which is my preferred way of cooking them with vegetables. When fish heads are added to mung beans, I like to toast them to give the lentils more body. Split mung bean lentils are cooked at a ratio of 1:4 cups of lentils to water. They're brought to a boil with turmeric and salt and the cooked vegetables are added after the lentils reach the desired consistency. While the lentils are cooking, the peas are stir-fried with tomatoes and ginger paste in a tempering of hot oil, cumin seeds, star anise and bay leaves and then added to the cooked lentils. Lentils are best served over hot rice or chapatis/tortillas.

Ingredients
1 cup split mung bean lentils, washed and drained
4 cups water
1/4 tsp. turmeric
salt to taste

4 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. cumin seeds
2 star anise
2 green chilies, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 tsp. ginger paste
1 cup frozen peas
salt to taste
1 tsp. ghee

Directions
  1. Bring lentils and water to boil in a saucepan, skim off all the scum that rises to the top and add turmeric and salt.
  2. Lower the heat to medium and simmer for about 30 minutes until lentils reach the desired consistency.
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a separate skillet and sputter cumin seeds, chilies, bay leaves and star anise.
  4. Add ginger paste, tomatoes and peas and stir-fry until oil resurfaces.
  5. Add cooked lentils and simmer for 2 minutes.
  6. Adjust salt to taste and garnish with ghee before serving over a mound of hot rice or with chapatis.