Year of the Bento Part Four: Portable Lentil Dal


The title of this post has given me more trouble than the recipe – is it dal, dahl or dhal? Is it redundant to put the word lentil in there? I couldn’t decide, and neither could the internet, do I just made a decision before I got sucked into a black hole of doubt and spent hours trying to decide what the most reputable authority would be, and then copying it. I’m sure you all know what I mean anyway – though the portable bit, well, there’s the mystery. Until the next paragraph.

This is a recipe based on both this one from The Hungry Tiger, and this one from Just Bento – I made a couple of adjustments though, of course. Here is my own version of the recipe:

  • 1 cup uncooked red lentils or dal
  • several turns of a grinder containing salt, garlic and chili
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp tandoori masala
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tiny onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • spot of rapeseed oil
  • small handful coriander leaves, finely chopped
  • smoked sea salt and pepper
  • sesame seeds and nigella/kalongi/black onion seeds to coat

Alright, let us begin. First, put the lentils into a pot with 2 1/2 cups of water, season with the salt/garlic/chili and place over a medium heat until they boil. Then, turn the heat down and simmer, stirring often, for about 30 minutes. Pay particular attention to stirring the lentils in the latter half of the cooking time, as they’ll want to stick to the pot as the water is absorbed and your job is to deny them that pleasure. You want the lentils to be mushy but not too wet – they’ll thicken and dry a little as they cool as well, but you want them to be almost all the way done when you take them off the heat. The picture above is of the mix once the next steps have been completed.

Once they’re off the heat, add the tomato puree and spices, and mix through. Leave the lentils to cool as you saute the onion and garlic, with the rapeseed oil, in a small frying pan. Once the onion is soft and transparent, add the contents of the frying pan to the lentil mix, and stir through again. Taste and season if required. Now, put the oven on to heat to 180C.

Pour out the two kinds of seeds onto a chopping board and mix evenly, then start lifting out and shaping little balls of the lentil mix. You’ll need quite a lot of seeds if you want to coat the snacks completely, like I have, or you can ease back on them a little and just coat them lightly. It always takes more than you think to coat stuff like this, I find, so be prepared to have to pour out more half way through (and, if you’re like me, again at the very end to do the last two). I measured and shaped mine by hand, so they’re a bit uneven, but if you have a measuring or scooping device that’s the right size then go for it. Roll the ball in the seed mix, then place on a baking tray lined with foil or baking paper. Whichever you use, grease it to stop the portable dals from sticking. I forgot to do this. It wasn’t the end of the world, but neither was it perfect. So, it was just normal, I suppose. Still, we may as well strive for perfection, eh?

Once you’ve finished, put the sheet in the oven and bake for 10 minutes, then turn them over and bake for another 10. Remove from the oven and cool on the baking sheet. Done!

These are another item for my frozen bento library, I feel more confident about the freezing and reheating suitability of these – the texture is mushy already, how far wrong can it go? I think they’ll be best with some kind of dip, but I did eat two straight from the oven and they were good, if not great, on their own. I love the crunchy texture from the seeds contrasting with the soft middle – they’re a bit like a baked pakora, actually. I would definitely recommend playing with the spices and flavours – if you’re not freezing them, get some frozen peas in there in the last three minutes of lentil cooking time, or some spinach would be good too. It’s a highly adaptable recipe, I can see me making different versions of these in future.

Final thing to note – each snack (this recipe made 18) is worth about 50 calories, I think, allowing for 1 tsp of seeds per snack. Most of the calories come from the seeds – without them you’re looking at 20 calories each. If you are relying on this information, though, you should know that I’m not counting the onion, garlic or tomato puree, the healthy eating plan I take advice from (but don’t follow) has them as ‘free’ foods.

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About Rock Salt

Seasoning while rocking out since 1983. View all posts by Rock Salt

2 responses to “Year of the Bento Part Four: Portable Lentil Dal

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