red lentils

Common name: masoor dal

Binomen: Lens culinaris

These lentils, masoor dal, are a split lentil without skin and red in colour.

They do not need soaking prior to cooking as they are reasonably soft and cook quite quickly. When cooked, masoor dal turns a soft golden colour and has a pleasant earthy flavour.

By weight, they are 26 per cent protein. This is the third-highest level of protein, by weight, of any plant-based food, after soybean and hemp. Consequently, they are in high use in day-to-day recipes in Indian households.

They are versatile. If you are unsure of what dal to use in any recipe, then these should be your default option. They are the most used dal in our kitchen. They are often mixed with other types of pulse in many of the dal or soup dishes in this cookbook.

A very plain dal can be made with these, a little salt, turmeric and asafoetida, and 15 minutes later you have a bowl of great dal that is ideal to eat with some idli, chapatis or rice.

Split red lentils are readily available from supermarkets. Always check the packaging to get as fresh as possible, as old dal can be harder to cook. The best dals come from good health food shops.

Masoor dal will keep for several months if stored in an airtight container in a cool, dry, dark place.