A lot of people have a preconceived notion about healthy, vegan food – that’s it’s boring and lacks taste. One of the things I love most about what I do is showing people that simply does not have to be true. Eating a healthy, plant-based diet – or at least incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet – does not mean you need to subsist on rice, beans and steamed veggies alone.
I think that’s why I gravitate towards cooking Indian, Moroccan, and Middle Eastern cuisines most. The abundance of fresh herbs & fragrant spices of these foods encourages healthy ingredients, and adds a unique depth of flavor to plant-based dishes.
I especially love Indian cuisine for two reasons. First, they use a lot of lentils and I LOVE lentils. They are a vegetarian and vegan’s best friend. One cup of cooked lentils contains a whopping 18 grams of protein! And there are so many different types of lentils – all of which are extremely versatile.
French lentils can take on just about any dressing and get made into all kinds of salads, red lentils are great in soups and stews, yellow lentils and moong dal are amazing in Indian dishes, and I could go on.
The other reason I love Indian cuisine so much is because so many of their culinary spices are also used medicinally. Medicine that tastes great and has no side effects? I’m in!
Let’s take a look at the healing properties for the some of the spices I’ve included in my dal recipe:
- Cumin: promotes digestion and has been used to treat diarrhea by stimulating the secretion of pancreatic enzymes.
- Cinnamon: helps to regulate blood sugar and aids in the digestion of sweet, starchy vegetables like yams, sweet potatoes, and winter squash.
- Mustard Seeds: Mustard seeds are rich in phytonutrients (simply put, the plant’s health-promoting properties) called isothiocyanates, which have been extensively studied for their anti-cancer benefits.
- Turmeric: is highly anti-inflammatory and is often used to treat many symptoms of autoimmune disease
- Fresh Cilantro: is known to aid in the cleansing of heavy metals from our bodies.
I’ve made this dal several times for cooking classes and it’s always been a big hit – even with the kids! It’s easy to make, cost-effective, delicious, and it stores well in the fridge for up to 3 days so it’s perfect for leftovers.
Feel free to play around with the spices – adding in more or removing ones you may not partiularly like until you find a combination that suits your taste buds. Serve alongside some sauteed greens like lacinato kale, spinach, or dandelion then throw on top of some brown basmati rice and you’ve got a full meal.
- 1 cup moong dal
- 4 cups water
- 1 ¼ cups of coconut milk
- 1 cup of crushed, roasted tomatoes
- ¾ teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon coconut oil
- ½ teaspoon each of cumin, coriander, and black (or yellow) mustard seeds, dry toasted & crushed into powder (with spice grinder or mortar & pestle)
- ¼ teaspoon each of turmeric, cinnamon, paprika
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne (optional)
- handful of chopped fresh cilantro (aka coriander) for garnish
- Wash the moong dal in three changes of water.
- Add the moong dal to the 4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface. Once boiling, bring down to a simmer and cook for about 30 minutes. You’ll know when the dal is almost cooked, as it will begin falling apart and becoming soft.
- While dal is cooking dry toast the cumin, coriander & mustard seeds for a minute or two until they begin to pop & become fragrant. Once ready, grind them in a spice grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Put aside and combine with the remaining ground spices in a small bowl.
- Once dal is ready, add in the salt, tomatoes, and coconut milk. Let it simmer while you heat the coconut oil in a separate pan.
- Sauté all the ground spices for a minute then add it to the dal and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Serve with the lemon or lime wedges and add in some sautéed greens like kale, dandelion or spinach if having. Alternatively, you can just slice up some greens and add them into the dal in the last couple of minutes of cooking rather than sauteeing separately.