March 16, 2012

Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude:
American Girl Dhal

Note: Fridays of Intestinal Fortitude is a weekly(ish) feature about food, food and more FOOD. No, I am not an expert, but I do enjoy talking about food prep, cooking food, eating food and making sweet love to food.  Okay, maybe not the "sweet love" part. After all, this is not meant to be an homage to 9 1/2 Weeks.

Recipe Index can be found here.

A mainstay of Indian cooking is dhal (also spelled "daal" or "dal".  Welcome to the wonderful, wild world of transliteration!) When the term "dhal" is used, it is commonly referring to lentils or split-peas.  They come in many varieties and some of the more common ones are channa (light yellow), masoor (pinkish red), thoor (golden), urad (creamy white) or mung (not a split pea - it is round and yellow).

Mostly, I am not a huge fan of dhal.  In college, I hung out with two different groups of Sri Lankans and they all made a dhal that I really enjoyed.  I never figured out if it was a Sri Lankan Thing or just that my friends had amazing recipes.  Sadly, I failed to actually GET their recipes.  I tried over the years to make dhal and eventually gave up.  When I discovered Maya Kaimal's cookbooks (Curried Favors and Savoring the Spice Coast of India: Fresh Flavors from Kerala), I decided to give dhal another try.  I used the recipe from Curried Favors and quite simply, learned How to Stop Worrying and Love the Dhal.

Over the years, I slightly modified Kaimal's recipe.  For one, her original recipe required two pots.  When I am cooking for guests, I simply do not have enough burners to dedicate to making a dhal.  Also, I know many folks swear by pressure cookers, but I have never had a problem making this without a pressure cooker. In fact, I do not even own a pressure cooker -- in 1992 while making the beef base for biryani in a pressure cooker, the safety valve blew out.  That event scarred me for life when it comes to pressure cookers.  *shudder*

This dish is full of flavor and is so satisfying.  Also, it sits well so it can be made ahead of time.  Even better, it freezes well for reheating (Manoj is eating leftovers from last Saturday for his dinner tonight since we are out of town.  And he is not complaining, either.)   If you wanted to go White People on this and make a soup out of it, water it down and make it go even further!

Spicy Tomato Dhal

1/4 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 tbs vegetable oil
1 cup chopped onion
1 tbs minced garlic
1 cup chopped tomatoes
1 cup masoor dhal
2.5 cups water
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
2 tbs cilantro

1. Heat oil in saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and crushed red pepper. When the seeds begin to pop, add the onions and garlic.  Fry for 5 minutes until the onion is soft.

2. Add the tomatoes and cook until they are soft.

3. Add the dhal, turmeric and water. Let it come to a boil, and then let it simmer for 30 minutes.  If it begins to stick, just add a bit of water here and there, if needed.

4. Mash the dhal a bit with a potato masher or back of a spoon.  Garnish with cilantro and serve!


luckyfatima said...

Looks yum.

Olivia said...

I usually like dahl when we go out for Indian food. The stuff made around her tends to be green/brown. I tried making it once, but it wasn't very good.

And pressure cookers scare the bejeesus out of me, too.