Cooking is one of my great passions. I’ve been cooking ever since my first apartment in college but only started to focus on the foods that I eat when I turned to a more plant-based diet in 2013. Ever since then I’ve been conscious about the foods that I cook, where my produce comes from, and cooking with the seasons. This post is for anyone who loves cooking with lentils such as urad dal and is looking for a healthy, vegetarian weeknight meal. Read the post to find out my recipe for split urad dal risotto with mushrooms. Jump to Recipe
I’m not sure what I love to do more:
cook or eat
I find that there’s something therapeutic to being in the kitchen: chopping veggies, sautéing, stirring, blending…even doing the dishes. It’s what I miss most when I’m off traveling and don’t have the option of staying in places with kitchens.
Find something you’re passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it
– Julia Child
My first foray into the world of blogging was back in 2011 when I was studying abroad in France. I started the blog to document my summer in France but once I was done, it soon morphed into a food blog called The Fat Camel. I ran it for a couple of years but couldn’t keep up (blogging on a regular basis is no joke) once I moved to Washington D.C. and started my first full-time job. I still, however, didn’t stop cooking and documenting the dishes I made – I should take a look at my files and post some of my favorite recipes.
Now that I’m back in India I sometimes have to get creative with my cooking because produce here is seasonal, and you don’t always find foreign products. Or, if you do, thanks to import taxes, they end up being insanely expensive. While rice is a staple in the Indian diet, the types of rice you find in India are different from the ones grown abroad, and arborio rice is not one of them.
So when my friend recently posted on Instagram (p.s. are you following me? @wheresbelblog) a picture of her meal-plan dinner being an urad dal risotto, I thought to myself I want to make that! Actually, my exact comment on her post was “Oooooooh I’m going to make this!”
There was only one recipe that I could find from My New Roots detailing a risotto made from lentils which what mine is inspired by. However I made a few changes:
- the type of lentil used – I used split urad dal instead of whole urad dal. This meant I didn’t need to soak the lentils overnight. Instead, I only soaked it for four hours prior to cooking them. They needed about 40 minutes of cook time and frequent stirring to get to the regular risotto consistency.
- I added in chopped carrots while cooking the dal because I needed to use them up. Plus, more veggies are never a bad thing. You could also add in chopped zucchini or spinach while cooking, or top with roasted tomatoes, peas, and sautéed green beans.
- mushrooms other than white button are hard to find in India. I did find some delicious brown beech mushrooms at the grocery store which I used. But really, any variety of mushroom will do.
- nutritional yeast: it’s the universe’s gift to plant-based diets. I sprinkled about two tablespoons worth into the dal-stock combo while it was cooking and it really amped up the taste.
- when it was almost done I added in some smoked Gouda (so so flavorful and delicious) but if you want to keep it vegan, don’t add it.
- adding in asafoetida – this helps with bloating (aaand keeping gas to a minimum, important for date night) especially when cooking with lentils or beans. A great kitchen tip from my parents!
The key to getting the white lentil split urad dal to resemble risotto is simmering it covered over a low flame and stirring every couple of minutes. The stirring releases the starches and adds to the overall creaminess of the dish.I love making mushrooms this way because it cooks them down to the point where they taste incredibly meaty. What you have to do is not crowd the pan, so cook down the mushrooms in batches. Get the oil hot and add in the mushrooms – the key that Sarah from The New Roots is right about really is to not touch the mushrooms for 4 minutes on each side. Wait until one side is golden brown before turning them over. Alternatively, to make things easier you could always roast them in the oven for 30 minutes while you tend to the risotto. Find the split urad dal risotto recipe below.
Recipe: Split Urad Dal Risotto with Basil and Mushrooms
Split Urad Dal Risotto with Basil and Mushrooms
- 1 cup split urad dal washed thoroughly and soaked for 4 hours
- 2 Tbsp Olive oil
- 2 small red onions chopped
- 3 small carrots chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic chopped
- 1 veggie bouillon cube in 4 cups of hot water
- 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1/4 tsp Asafoetida or hing
- 1/4 cup basil roughly chopped
- salt to taste
- 1/4 cup smoked gouda optional
- 2 cups white button & brown beech mushrooms cleaned and chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic chopped
- sprinkle of salt and black pepper
- vegetable oil to fry mushrooms
- 1 1/2 tsp balsamic vinegar
Wash split urad dal lentils under running water until clean. I had to do this about 4 times before the water was clear. Add water to cover lentils and soak for four hours. The lentils will puff up when soaked, and I tasted one before getting started - it was easy to bite into. When ready to cook, drain water.
Heat olive oil in a pan. Add in chopped onions and carrots, stir. Cook over medium heat until onions have softened and are starting to brown. Add in garlic and cook for a minute before adding in urad dal. Stir everything to combine and let cook for a few minutes so the lentils brown a little. Add in 4 cups of veggie stock - it should be enough to cover the lentils. Add in nutritional yeast and asafoetida. Bring mixture to a strong simmer and cover.
Set your timer for 40 minutes and stir the lentils every couple of minutes to release starch and make sure the mixture doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan. If the water level runs too low, add a little bit in. I added in 1 1/2 more cups over 40 minutes.
While the risotto are cooking, take a frying pan out and start roasting the mushrooms. Heat vegetable oil in pan until very hot then add in mushrooms. Stir once to coat and don't overcrowd the pan. Let mushrooms roast for 4-5 minutes over medium-low heat. Check to see if bottom is golden brown - if it is then turn over and do the other side. Add in half of the garlic, stir for a minute. Remove from pan and repeat with remaining mushrooms. Once all are complete, mix in balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper. Mix to combine and set aside.
The lentils will be soft when done and the consistency will resemble a traditional risotto. I added in the basil at the very end and stirred to combine. If adding gouda, this is where I add it in, right before serving. Serve on a plate with a generous topping of mushrooms on top.
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Have you made risotto from anything other than rice before? Let me know in the comments below!