A bitter bitter day up North had me longing for sunnier climes, and some sort of savoury, hot mush which would warm the proverbial cockles, after the “hot whisky” my Irish friend suggested missed them by a mile…yuk. I may be in Scotland-but nothing will induce me to drink whisky voluntarily-not even the tartan-print whisky-flavoured condoms I found the other day…..
So I cooked the ideal monday night supper, warming, hearty and cheap enough to satisfy any good Scot-a traditional Indian Dal.
Dal was all I ate when I went to Nepal- then at The Dock Kitchen we used to cook a very different Sri Lankan version, but whichever way you make it it is always satisfying and easy, and it always involves lentils, split peas or chick peas. There are many different types of dal-usually the red lentils are most common, but the “toor” and “chana” variety work too.
So here’s the recipe:
1 onion, sliced
ghee,butter or oil for frying
1 clove of garlic,sliced
A couple of chillis-depending how hot you want it
I tomato, roughly chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander seeds
1/2 stick cinnamon
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
6 cardamom pods
100g chana dal (this is the large yellow variety which takes longer to cook, but any type will do-the red lentils are good if you’re pushed for time)
About 2 pints of water
The beauty of dal is that it’s not an exact science, you can tailor it to suit you. However, the base needs attention- fry the onion, garlic, chilli and spices in the oil/butter/ghee. If you like and you have time you can grind the spices first in a pestle and mortar- i usually keep them whole-partly because i’m lazy and partly because i like the crunchy surprises. A metaphor for my life perhaps. Anyway, fry these things for7 minutes or so, then add the tomato and cook till it’s all soft and broken down. It should smell yum by now. Add the lentils and the water, then simmer for a 45 minutes-1 hour if using yellow toor dal, or about 1/2 an hour if using red lentils, stirring occasionally. If it begins to look dry, add more water. Basically the lentils will break down and form a sort of soft slush. The consistency of gruel is what you’re aiming for (for those of you unfamiliar with Oliver Twist- runny porridge) When this is achieved add salt and pepper to taste, a squeeze of lime if you have it, or fresh coriander if you feel like being fancy. Eat with a splodge of greek yoghurt, if liked, or a chapatti. I went for simple and kept it plain. I would attach a photo but this is really a meal where content triumphs over aesthetics, another metaphor for my life maybe….