Pumpkin and split peas with camphor basil (Lau Dal)

This spring, my lovely Mother bought me an excellent cook book, Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Sahni. I’ve been wanting to learn how to cook Indian food for a while, but needed a book that explained the ingredients, techniques and cookware. This book is all of those things! I’ve been cooking my way through and have enjoyed every dish I’ve made. This dish is very tasty – it’s fragrant, has great flavor and texture. It’s definitely a comfort food! I like to serve it with rice and naan.

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The first time I was planning on making this dish, I tried shredding the ginger with my mandolin and ended up slicing a huge chunk off of my right thumb. It was SO painful and took over a month to fully heal. Pat has pictures, but I still can’t look at them. Lesson learned: always use the guard when you’re using the mandolin. When I went to finally make it, I was having some PTSD about it, so I made Pat cook it for me. Now my PTSD is gone and I can cook it!

This recipe calls for camphor basil, which unless you are growing it yourself, is not available in the United States. Instead, you can use sweet basil and star anise together as a substitute.

Lau Dal

Serves: 4-6
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 45 minutes 

1/3 cup sweet basil and 4 star anise sections
1 cup yellow split peas
Pinch tumeric
3 bay leaves
1 small onion, diced
2 cups water
2 pounds pumpkin or butternut squash, cubed
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1-2 cups water

Spice-perfumed butter

2 tbsp butter, 3 tbsp vegetable oil or 5 tbsp ghee
1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2 tbsp grated ginger
2-4 jalapeños

Julienne the basil.

Put the split peas, tumeric, bay leaves, onion and 2 cups of water in a large soup pot, bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes, partly covered over medium heat.

Add the butternut squash and 1-2 cups more water, sugar and salt and cook for 20 more minutes.

To make the perfumed butter, heat the oil and butter in a skillet. When it’s hot, add the cumin seeds and let them sizzle for about 20 seconds. Add the ginger and jalapeños for 20 seconds. Then add the basil. Pour the butter over the butternut squash and lentils and stir. Serve over basmati rice and have some naan on the side.

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