As frugal as lentils are, there’s something about the standard lentil soup with carrots, onions and celery that just doen’t taste good to me. I really didn’t like lentils until I started cooking them Indian-style. Not only are lentils inexpensive, but the Indian spices and seasonings used are too! They’re also pretty easy to find in any American supermarket.
If you’re not familiar with Indian cooking, there’s a very popular type of dish known as dal (or dahl, daal, dhal). They are nearly always made of some sort of split peas, beans or lentils with Indian spices like turmeric, cumin, chile, and coriander. The combination makes for a really tasty dish that (IMHO) is way better than any American preparation of lentils.
When I started cooking Indian food, I went to YouTube because it was so different that what I was used to cooking and I wanted to see someone do it first. I now have two favorite YouTube Indian chefs that I always go to when I want to make Indian food. Their videos are very easy to follow and their recipes turn out great. One is Manjula (manjulaskitchen). The other is Sanjay (vahchef).
Here’s one of Sanjay’s recipes that I just made tonight. It came out great! Of couse, I made a batch about four times bigger than in the video so will have many meals from a $0.99 bag of lentils. To go with the dal, I also made Sanjay’s palak paneer recipe except using extra firm tofu instead of the paneer cheese. It was a great vegetarian meal that was as delicious as it was frugal.
***UPDATE 6/2 ***
I also tried to make the breakfast dish shown in the second half of the video. It’s GREAT!!! It might seem a little strange but turned out to be delicious. I would describe it as the Indian equivalent of corned beef hash. My wife loved it and asked for it for breakfast after tasting mine. My dal was a little mushier than in the video, but it still worked to fry it. I didn’t have a non-stick pan and used a cast iron skillet instead. It worked great and didn’t stick at all! This is definitely worth trying if you’re looking for something interesting for breakfast or looking for a vegetarian/vegan breakfast. (I used a non-dairy spread instead of butter so mine was vegan.)