February 24, 2013

Kid-Friendly Indian Food (Easy Dal)

red lentil dal with brown rice, sauteed garlicky curly kale, turkey-veggie meatball, pear and clementine slices
Indian food is kid-friendly. (Indian kids eat it, after all, and there are a lot of them.) But lets say you're an American who loves Indian flavors, maybe you cook with them sometimes, or you get takeout from that awesome Indian place you know, and until now you never thought to toss your kid a piece of the vindaloo.

It's definitely not too late, no matter your kids' ages. This mellow dal is a great introduction to eastern spices for curry-lovers-in-training. (Darwin started eating it when he was around nine months old.) It features the best of Indian flavors: warming ginger, garlic, fried spices, and that mysterious marrying of coconut and tomato that seems absurd in western cuisine but works so beautifully in curries.

We like it over brown rice with a few torn cilantro leaves on top and a dollop of whole plain yogurt. We almost always add something to it while it's simmering: a chopped carrot, some cauliflower florets, or a cup of garbanzo beans (if you're adding a lot of anything, scale up the spices to match.)


Basic, Delicious Dal
Serves 4

1 cup dry red lentils, rinsed and drained
1 medium onion, chopped very finely
2 roma tomatoes, chopped
1 generous Tbls. extra virgin coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced or grated
1 Tbls. freshly grated ginger
1 tsp. ground coriander (freshly ground is best)
1 tsp. ground cumin seeds (freshly ground is best)
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. salt
pinch cayenne (optional)

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat and fry onions until translucent, about five minutes.

Add garlic, ginger and spices and fry a minute more, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot.

Add tomatoes and cook five minutes more, stirring frequently, until tomatoes have begun breaking down into sauce.

Add lentils, stir to coat, then add 2.5 cups of water. (This is also the time to add any extra vegetables you like.)

Bring the pot to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover, checking and stirring occasionally until the lentils completely soften and break apart, about 20 minutes.

Stir in the salt and taste. Adjust with more salt if needed.

Serve topped with yogurt and fresh torn cilantro leaves.


  1. My daughter loves Indian food! Think its because I ate it a lot while pregnant! ;)

    1. YES! I really believe that flavors are transferred to unborn babies, and nursing babies. It's the coolest thing.

  2. Indian food is fabulous and I can't wait to share it with my baby son.

    BTW, I love what you're doing and I hope it will spread.

    1. Thanks Audrey, I'm glad you're here! Congrats on your little one!

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  7. Thank you thank you thank you. I have been searching for a fairly easy dal recipe for my todller twins. They gobbled up 2 bowls last night and ate it with roti canai (Indian flat bread). Just love it! I wished I have come across your recipe sooner. It's not easy to find prepacked dal that is not spicy and doesn't have a long list of ingredients that put me off before even getting to the instruction. Your recipe is perfect and it is not spicy too. Thank you so much!

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