sheep lover from an early age!

sheep lover from an early age!

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

How's it cooking dahl?...


"What's dahl?"

Check out Wikipedia for a bit of a run down...

Dahl, besides being a great author of kids' books, including Charlie and the Chocolate factory, is a dish of lentils or pulses, a real staple in India, and I bet in some of it's neighbouring countries too.

They are tons of different dahls and I'm sure tons upon tons of different ways of preparation and flavouring. Some recipes I've seen in snazzy cookbooks seem ridiculously time consuming for such a staple everyday dish. But judging by the piccys they probably taste downright exotic.

However, over 20 years ago when I was in India for some months, I fell in love with the simplest of dahls, dutifully prepared every week by the cooks at the Meher Baba Pilgrim Center, outside of Ahmednagar, in Maharastra state.

This dahl was simply made of little yellow hulled split moong beans, and seasoned only with salt, garlic and ghee. I cannot tell you how that warm creamy dahl mixed with a little plain white basmati sang love songs in my mouth. It was the taste of home, of comfort, of peace. Salt, garlic and ghee? Maybe I was just succumbing to the spiritually charged atmosphere? Or maybe the simpleness of it was a welcome change from eating spicy Indian food everyday.

For a long time I played with dahl making, frying the dahl first to enhance the nutty flavour, adding complex masalas after spending a whole arvo hand roasting one spice at a time and grounding it up in my old coffee grinder. Then one day it hit me, why don't I just make dahl with salt, garlic and ghee?

Tonight I made some, and then, I just have to confess, I added turmeric (strictly for it's anti-inflammatory properties of course) plus a tiny pinch of asafoetida (hing), which I am addicted to the smell of. Try it... It's a love or hate kinda thing, is hing.

Also, I made a tadka, which is extra bits and spices fried in oil and popped on top of the dahl. Now don't be mad, but I just had to use up the homegrown red onion, a lonely leftover jalapeno, plus farmer's market tomatoes and cilantro just sitting in the fridge... and the cumin... well, that was just for kicks, I promise.

I didn't even serve it with rice! Oh my gosh... you must be so disappointed with me. It's just that I had some lovely new spuds and zucchinis to use, so I couldn't very well not, could I?

So much for that simple comforting dahl... Okay, I blew it, but it still tasted homemade and nourishing. Just the way I like my tucker!

Here's how to make a dahl:

Put some split moong dahl (also seen as mung dal) in a pot
Let soak for a while in water. Drain and cook in fresh water or broth
Bring to a simmer and remove scum that forms
Then add ghee, tumeric, fresh garlic (fresh ginger is good too)
More water may need to be added as it cooks
Once it starts going creamy, be careful, it can easily burn.

Season generously with salt (& pepper too if you want)
It's ready when it's consistancy is totally creamy.

Serve as thick or thin as you like. Eat like soup or pour over rice.
Very nice with an Indian pickle such as hot mango or lime.

If you want to dress it up with a tadka, just fry up a little onion, garlic, cumin seeds, tomato, cilantro... whatever you like and throw it on the top of the dahl just
before serving.

So, get cooking dahl, darls....

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