Pulses, especially red lentils (as they cook so quickly) are a fantastic vegetable protein. They are super easy to make with kids too.
This Red Lentil and Tofu Curry is a quick dish- 15-20 minute, even with kids making it. It’s a suitable dish for ages 7-8 years and above to prepare, depending on their maturity. The dish is a balanced, vegetarian protein dish, that can be adapted to a wide range of tastes with the spices, with added vegetables too.
There are quite a few variations that you can try with the kids, which I’ll mention as we go along.
The Masoor Dhal doesn’t, traditionally, have tofu. We use tofu, because of Angelina being vegetarian. I have to find creative ways to give her developing body enough protein. She also doesn’t like tofu, but in this dish, there are enough flavours to infuse the tofu and make it more palatable for her.
Kids’ Health and Safety for Making the Dhal
Depending on the maturity of your child, it can be made from 7-8 years old, as long as they have a bit of attention to detail. The main risk is cuts and burns. Here’s a list of risks to check if your child is ready and which tasks you are comfortable in assigning them:
- Cleaning and chopping the onions needs a sharp knife
… though you can just quarter the onions and blend it down in a food processor or with a hand blender. But do add oil when blending with a hand blender.
- If your child touches their eyes with the onion or chilli powder residue on their hands, they will be in agony!
Rinse immediately with flowing water!
- Make sure you don’t use too much oil for sauteing the onions, as the oil can splash and cause burns, when the onions are added
- Mixing the contents, when frying the onions and – I make sure my child stands with the pot at about waist height, so their face is away from the mix
- The contents of the pan can easily catch at the bottom of the pan and burn. So lots of stirring needed: kids need to have a good handle hold on the pot while stirring. This handle should be away from flames, if you have a gas cooker, to avoid burns.
- Kids shouldn’t wear loose sleeves when coming over flames. (We choose induction because of the children.)
- Teach your kids to take care when stirring so they don’t splash themselves with any hot liquid.
1 medium sized onion, finely chopped
200g / 7 oz tofu, sliced into thin strips
1.5 cups / 375 ml of dried red lentils
2 tbsp concentrated tomato puree
2 teaspoons of oil (if you have ghee, then that’s more flavourful)
c 3 cups of hot water
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 – 2 cloves of garlic
1 heaped tsp grated fresh ginger
1 tsp cumin (ground or seeds)
1 tsp ground coriander
chilli powder/ chilli seeds/ fresh chilli, to taste
salt to taste
How to make it
Clean the surface, prepare tools- knife, chopping board, hand blender (or a garlic press and a fine cheese grater), measuring cups
Step 1) Clean and chop onions (you can also blend the onions with a hand blender);
Slice the tofu (as tofu is easy to slice, this is a good job for younger chiefs);
Clean the garlic;
Mix together the dry spices in a little bowl
Step 2) Warm the oil and add onions on a medium heat, stir occasionally
Step 3) Blend together garlic, ginger and chilli with a dash of oil and add to frying onions , when the onions start turning glassy.
Step 4) Add in the tofu, mixing well. Fry for a minute or 2, till they are well coated.
Step 5) Have all your lentils and spices at hand: Add in the red lentils and the rest of the spices.
Stir well, fry for a minute or two, stirring almost constantly, bit gently.
TIP: Be careful, as the lentils catch on the base of the pan easily. (For younger children or less confident kids you can just miss this frying segment and add the water immediately after adding the lentils and spices)
Step 6) Add hot water (with older kids, add boiling water. I never liked my kids handling boiling water.) Stir and bring to boil on a high heat.
Step 7) Once boiling, lower to a gentle simmer, add in the tomato puree. Stir. Cover with a lid.
Set timer for 12-15 minutes. (Add a couple of minutes extra if you missed the frying stage for the lentils.)
Stir every couple of minutes, so the lentils don’t stick to the bottom. (If you need, you can add a little extra water.)
Step 8) optional: about 5 minutes into cooking, you can add some chopped carrots or other vegetables, depending on what you have at home and whether you want to get a some veggies into your diets.
Step 9) Serve straight away.
This goes very well with plain rice or quinoa, as well as other dishes like saag aloo (potatoes and spinach). Dhal, like many curries, also improves in flavour, when stored for a day or two in the fridge.
This is an easy and flexible dish that we often include in an Indian Curry night.
Do you have any favourite twists to this classic recipe? Share them in the comments!