I hope you remember the recipe I posted a few days back about how to make that soup base, involving the spices, and the tomatoes, and the onions, and all that jazz? Here is the post, in case you don't have it bookmarked yet. This morning, I did a quick check of the fridge, and realised that we had absolutely no daal or other bean type dishes of any sort at all! In a semi panic, I started foraging around in my pantry to see what I could come up with. I found a package of lentils that looked no worse for the wear, so I immediately decided on lentil soup. The lucky thing is that I still had a pot with the fat from deep frying stuff last night, so I decided to use that for the oil for the dish. After that, in went the spices, the onions, garlic, curry leaves, tomatoes, and all the other good lovely things in their correct order. After the tomatoes were cooked down, I added in the lentils (roughly half a kilo) and around two or three litres of water. I let the water come up to a full rolling boil, then dropped down
You may think that using tomatoes in a lentils dish is risky, because traditionally, acid added in while the beans are cooking will cause them to come out like bullets. Fortunately for us, lentil as split peas are the exception to this very sensible rule. This is why I didn't even bother to cook the lentils ahead of time. Instead, I just added them as is into the pot, and let them bubble away quite nicely.
This is also why I would suggest to a new or unsure cook to start their tour of beans with lentils. They're not only lovely in texture and taste, but they're highly forgiving of inexperience, and will generally turn out well after about an hour or so of gentle cooking on the stove. This dish would have been divine if I'd thrown in a couple of potatoes, some kale, carrots, butternut squash, or whatever other vegetable I had lying about. That's how wonderfully forgiving lentils are. They'll even graciously accept the humble pumpkin or sweet potato into their midst without a complaint (just be sure to roast the pumpkin or sweet potato ahead of time, so that they have enough time to get cooked all the way through).
This dish would also have been deliciously delectable with lots of thyme, rosemary, and basil, which would offset the smoky cumin and would have been a perfect counterpoint to the tomato. Additionally, lots of fresh cilantro, or parsley would have done equally well heaped on top just before serving. I could have used up any leftover steamed vegetables, added in at the last ten minutes or so of cooking, so that I could have a more complete meal in the bowl.
You can serve this dish with bread, or rice, or pasta, or whatever else your imagination can dream up!