Sweet & Sour Bombay Lentils

This is my favorite Indian lentil recipe! A bit sweet, a bit spicy, thick and filling and contains about 11 grams of protein per serving. It's well worth the effort. Gather your ingredients before starting. I find it easier to line up the spices in little containers so it's all ready to go. Watch the turmeric though - it stains everything! The recipe is from my Indian cuisine go-to cookbook – Julie Sahni's "Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking." Every recipe I have prepared from her book is excellent!


1-1/2 c. red lentils (masar dal)
1/2 tsp. turmeric
2 T. vegetable oil
4-1/2 c. water
1 heaping tsp. tamarind paste
1 T. brown sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 T. chopped fresh cilantro (for garnish)
3 T. shredded coconut, unsweetened or sweetened (for garnish)

Wash the lentils in several changes of water. Put in a saucepan with the turmeric, oil and water; bring to a boil. Stir often. Cook over medium heat, partially covered for 25 minutes. Cover, reduce heat and continue cooking for another 10 minutes or until soft. Add tamarind paste and brown sugar and cook an additional 10 minutes. Stir in the salt. Turn off heat and beat with a whisk for a minute or two to smooth and thicken the puree. Keep on a low simmer while preparing the spice-perfumed butter.

3 T. ghee (or vegetable oil)
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 tsp. black mustard seeds
1/4 tsp. fenugreek seeds
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper
2 tsp. garam masala

Heat the oil in a small frying pan (I use cast iron) over medium-high heat. When hot add the cumin seeds, black mustard seeds and fenugreek seeds. When the spices turn dark brown and the spattering of the mustard seeds subsides, add the turmeric, cayenne and garam masala. Let the spices sizzle for a second or two and immediately pour over the dal and mix well. Let it cook for an additional 5 minutes.

Serve sprinkled with chopped fresh cilantro and flaked coconut. Serves 4-6.

– Julie Sahni, "Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking"