Many years ago, in the early 1970s, I had the privilege of hanging out in an ashram kitchen with Gurucharanand, an Indian Mahatma (“Master of Wisdom”) who had come to the West with Guru Maharaji to reveal Knowledge of the Truth through life changing meditation techniques. Gurucharanand loved to sing and he also loved to cook. After learning from him how to make Chai from scratch, and cook with various Indian spices, a life-long love of Indian cookery began. Once exposed to the taste of authentic Indian cuisine and a vegetarian lifestyle, food and spirituality have become intimately entwined.
Certainly, there are as many versions of dal as there are Indian cooks and this is just one of mine influenced by Mulligatawny, a South Indian soup originally known as “pepperwater” or Rasam, and used as a cure for indigestion. The warming and carminative spices contained in the garam masala are what lend a healing quality to this soup.
OM, to the Mother of all cooks…
“May the Ocean of Salt, the Ocean of Honey, the Ocean of Wine, the Ocean of Ghee, the Ocean of Curd, the Ocean of Milk, the Ocean of Sweet Water sprinkle thee with their consecrated water.” – from a consecration manta
2 cups red or brown lentils
2 large onions, chopped or thinly sliced
4 Tablespoons ghee, or sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tablespoons ginger, minced
2 Tablespoons garam masala
1 quart vegetable stock and additional water as needed
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup coconut milk
(optional garnish: lemon, rice, cilantro leaves and sour cream)
Wash the lentils and soak over-night or for 3-4 hours. Drain, rinse, cover with water and simmer with bay leaf until soft. In the meantime, heat ghee and sauté the onions, garlic, and ginger until golden. Add garam masala and sauté a few minutes longer. Add some of the stock to sauté pan to losen spices and add to the dal with remaining stock and salt. Simmer until lentils start to fall apart 1- 3 hours. Add coconut milk at the end, warm through and adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve over rice with lemon. You can also garnish with cilantro leaves and a dollop of sour cream.
A little music from Gurucharanand to accompany your meal: Open Your Hearts and Listen
Indian Vegetarian Cookery by Jack Santa Maria, published by Samuel Weiser, Inc. New York. Printed in Great Britian 1977.