Red Lentil and Winter Squash Dal


Chef Katherine Deumling, Cook With What You Have

This is a fragrant, flavorful dish that improves the second day and freezes well. The list of ingredients is long but most of it is spices and the dish comes together quite quickly. You can use any SAUCY squash for this but I particularly like Sweet Meat, Hubbard, North Georgia Candy Roaster, and Butternut.


Serves 6

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
2 teaspoons black or brown mustard seeds (can omit in a pinch)
1 medium onion, finely diced
Thumb-sized piece fresh ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 jalapeno, seeded, finely chopped (can omit and use more chili flakes)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes or powdered chili of your choice
Salt – about 1 ½ teaspoons salt (it takes more salt than you might think)
1 1/2 cups red lentils
4-5 cups peeled and diced winter squash (see headnote)
3 cups vegetable stock or water
1 15-oz. can coconut milk (full fat)
Juice of 1 lemon
½ cup mint, chopped (optional)
½ a bunch of cilantro, chopped

Heat the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat and add the mustard and cumin seeds.  As soon as they begin to pop (only takes about 30-60 seconds) add the onion, turn down the heat to medium, and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add the ginger, garlic, minced jalapeno, cumin, turmeric, and dried hot pepper and cook for 3 minutes, taking care not to burn the spices.

Add the lentils and stir to coat with the oil and spices.  Add squash, salt, water, and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat so the dhal is at a simmer.  Cover partially and cook, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t stick to the bottom, until the lentils and squash have partially lost their shape and are soft – about 20 minutes.  Stir in more liquid as necessary for the consistency you want. Add the chopped herbs. Cook for a minute or two then season with more salt, if needed and add the lemon juice to taste.  Serve warm over long grain white or brown rice and with plain whole milk yogurt if you’d like.