Dhal is Indian for legumes, and the variety of legumes available in Indian cooking has made vegetarian diets practical (and tasty) for centuries. This recipe uses thoor dhal, which resembles a yellow split pea. The dhal can be obtained from Asian grocery stores, or the yellow split pea can be susbtituted. This recipe comes from Curried Favors by Maya Kaimal MacMillan, page 65.
¼ tsp mustard seeds
2 tbsp vegetable oil
¼ cup chopped onion
1 tsp minced garlic
½ tsp ground cumin
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper
1/8 tsp ground turmeric
1 cup thoor dhal or yellow split peas
2½ cups water
¼ cup grated unsweetened coconut
1 tsp salt
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp ghee
In a small covered frying pan heat mustard seeds over medium-high heat in oil until seeds begin to pop; uncover, add onion, and fry until edges are nicely browned. Add garlic and spice mixture and fry for 20 seconds, stirring constantly. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a 3-quart saucepan bring thoor dhal (or split peas) and water to a boil; turn heat down and add onion mixture to simmering dhal. Cover and continue simmering for 30 minutes (45 minutes for split peas), watching for spilling. (Remove cover to let bubbles subside if spilling occurs.) The peas will hold there shape even as the water level drops, but will break under the slightest pressure when cooked.
Mash dhal with a potato masher or back of a spoon 6 to 8 times, to break up roughly. Stir in the coconut and salt. Partially cover and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, adding a small amount of water if mixture gets too thick. Check often to make sure peas are not sticking to the bottom. Mixture should be the consistency of thick soup.
Stir in lemon juice. Remove from heat and stir in ghee.