I decided many years ago that I didn’t like Indian food. Any of it. After all, it was in the same area of the world as China, and I knew for a fact I didn’t like Chinese food. Not terribly enlightened or adventurous, I know. But food likes and dislikes aren’t always rational.
Then a decade or more ago, some friends offered me some dal soup, a traditional Indian dish. I didn’t want to be rude, and after they RAVED over it, stressed how long it took them to make it, adding that they’d fed it to my dog and she’d LOVED it, what could I say?
Yes, my dog. That wasn’t a typo. For the animal protectors out there, just in case you think I let anybody and everybody sneak food to my dog, I should add that this couple lived in a cottage in back of a house I was renting at the time. We shared a yard, a vegetable garden, laundry machines, sometimes our refrigerators, and always my dog. We were her pack.
So I carefully tried a drop of that dal off the end of a spoon they enthusiastically offered me. My response was immediate, and completely genuine. I loved it. And I promptly had my first of many bowls of dal.
Since January is National Soup Month, and I love soup, dal is something I’ve been experimenting with since the holidays. There are a variety of pulses that can be used, but for now, I’ve been playing with yellow split peas, and this is my latest favorite version. It might look bland, if only because of its drab color, but don’t let that fool you. This soup is packed with flavor, and fully qualifies as a party in the mouth. Best of all, from start to finish, it can be done in just over an hour, and most of that is just simmering time while you make a salad and pour yourself a beer or glass of wine.
- This version isn’t yellow like others you might have seen. This is because of the garam masala, a dark spice mixture, which is critical to the flavor of the soup.
- Dial in the amount of heat you want. Jalapeño infuses the least amount of heat of the choices provided, red Fresno chile the most. Removing the seeds will also make a difference. Much of the heat from peppers is concentrated in the seeds.
Yellow Split Pea Dal Soup
- 2 Tbsp ghee clarified butter, or vegetable oil
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ¼ tsp ground turmeric
- 1 Tbsp garam masala
- 2 – 3 serrano red Fresno, or jalapeno peppers, stemmed, and cut in half lengthwise
- 1 cup thinly sliced leeks
- 1 Tbsp minced garlic
- 2 tsp minced ginger
- 1 ½ cups yellow split peas
- 6 cups vegetable broth or water
- 2 Tbsp lime juice
- 2 Tbsp coconut milk full fat
- ¾ cup diced Roma tomatoes
- ¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Heat the ghee over medium-high heat and add the mustard and cumin seeds. Sauté the seeds until they begin to pop, about 1 minute. Add the turmeric, garam masala and peppers. Cook an additional 2 minutes until very aromatic.
- Add the leeks, garlic and ginger. Stir to coat, and cook for 10 minutes. Add the split peas and broth, and cook for 45 minutes or until the pulses are tender. Remove the peppers from the soup, and partially purée so the only half of the soup is puréed.
- Stir in the lime juice, coconut milk, and tomatoes. Garnish with chopped cilantro.