Friday, June 10, 2011

My dahl recipe (more or less) by popular demand

First off, I don't usually exactly cook by recipes for stews, soups etc, it just sort of comes together. Well, that isn't to say that I never follow recipes, but there are those faithful staples that I just throw together by instinct and eye and then someone says what's your recipe and I have to think how on earth I'm going to right this down because frankly I can't remember whether I use a teaspoon of something or a tablespoon or maybe half a cup?

Dahl is one of those recipes I make again and again. As a child I learnt it from my Indian and Pakistani neighbours, (though I make no claims as to the authenticity of my version), and it has been a favourite comfort food ever since, something I could quite easily live on if I had to. It's one of those recipes that friends and guests often ask for, so with the above caveat, I've tried to reconstruct my dahl recipe on paper, you may need to tweak it:

About 1.5-2 cups red/orange lentils
4-5 bay leaves or curry leaves 
2 tsp dried turmeric or preferably about a "thumb" of grated fresh turmeric
1 tsp dried ginger or about a half "thumb" of grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
1/2-1 tsp black pepper (if you want it spicier use cayenne or ground chilli instead, I tone this down for family who prefer milder tastes)
2 tsp cumin
@ 1/2 litre onion soup/onion stock -( You are best using homemade, though I guess it would work with a bought stock, I once made this fleishig with leftover chicken soup, better using onion soup as the stock, or another clear veg soup)
5-6 cups water (or more if it looks too dry)
Salt to taste
Juice of @ lemon or lime (maybe a bit less) - I prefer lime but they are incredibly hard to find in Israel, and in season only briefly.
Olive oil
Generous handful (or two, depending on your taste) cumin seeds
2-5 finely minced garlic cloves
Fresh coriander, finely chopped

1. Measure out the lentils into a sieve and wash cold water over them, thoroughly soaking them for a minute or so.
2. Add to a pot with the soup/stock, ground cumin, ginger, turmeric, curry/bay leaves and black pepper.
3. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer and cook until the lentils start to become mushy and soup like - probably around half and hour to 45 minutes.
4. When the lentils are starting to look suitably mushy give them a little help by stirring up the ingredients, mashing a bit with a wooden spoon to help them along.
5. In a separate pan heat the olive oil and then saute the cumin seeds with the minced farlic for a few minutes until toasted. Meanwhile let the dahl keep simmering on low.
6. Add the toasted garlic and seeds to the dahl, mix well and leave on the heat.
7. Add small amounts of lemon/lime juice in small increments, to taste. The lemon juice shouldn't be a dominant flavour, it should just help to bring out the other flavours, so you don't want to drown the dahl in lemon juice.

Serve piping hot or cold with the finely chopped coriander sprinkled generously on top (unless of course you are one of those folks who hates coriander, in which case, you might want to substitute finely chopped fresh mint instead). I like it as a soup or as a main or side dish spooned over brown bastmati or jasmine rice, with or without a dollop of plain, natural yoghurt, with a simple fresh chopped Israeli style cucumber and tomato salad on the side.

Oh, and I find that sometimes when I have guests who really can't stand anything with much spice, I make this with some coconut milk added or a few tablespoons of natural yoghurt stirred in and my guests who profess to hate all things Indian/spiced etc, usually come away asking for the recipe and saying that they didn't realise Indian type foods could taste so nice without being "spicey" (ie fiery hot) 

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