This is adapted from the food of Kashmir, the northernmost state in India. Most of the mountainous region is at high altitude. Fresh veggies and herbs are not easily available all through the year, hence these soups use dry spices and dry ginger for the required flavour. This soup tastes best with chana dal and mung dal. Soak both together overnight for best results and use. Try this soup with rice or flatbread along with Nepali Aloo.
1/2 cup split chickpeas (chana dal) or split yellow peas, soaked for 1 hour and drained 1/2 cup petite yellow lentils or split peas, soaked for 1 hour and drained 3 1/2 cups water 3/4 to 1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon safflower or other neutral oil 1/2 cup finely chopped red onion 2 bay leaves 1 (1-inch) knob of ginger, chopped 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom 1/8 teaspoon ground cloves 1/8 teaspoon black pepper 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste 1/2 to 1 teaspoon paprika 2 teaspoons lemon juice, divided 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
1. Combine the chickpeas and lentils in a saucepan with 3 1/2 cups of water. Partially cover and cook over medium heat until the split peas are tender and easily mashed, 30 to 40 minutes. Add the salt, reduce heat to low, and continue to simmer.
2. Meanwhile, make the tempering. Heat the oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until translucent, 5 to 7 minutes.
3. In a grinder or a blender, combine the bay leaves, ginger, fennel, cumin, cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, red pepper flakes, paprika, and 1 teaspoon lemon juice. Blend into a smooth paste. Use a few teaspoons of water if needed. Add the spice mixture to the skillet and mix well. Stirring frequently, cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until the ginger and spice smell roasted.
4. Add the tempering to the simmering dal. Mix well. Taste, and adjust salt and spice. Cook 5 minutes or longer until desired consistency is achieved. Garnish with lemon juice and cilantro, and serve hot.
Variations: Add 1 cup of chopped turnip or another root vegetable to the dal in step 1. You can also use Kashmiri garam masala (bought from Indian store) instead of the spices, blended with ginger.
Pressure Cooker: Use 1 cup chana dal or split peas. Wash the split peas, and combine with 3 1/2 cups of water in the pressure cooker. Close and lock the lid, and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, once the cooker reaches pressure (3 to 4 whistles at medium-high heat). Let the pressure release naturally. Open the lid, and place the cooker over low heat. Follow steps 2 through 4.