Tuesday 14 July 2020

Daal daal daal - starting with masoor (red lentils)

It came to my attention recently that tho I mention daal often, and I certainly used to cook it often, I don't have many daal recipes actually IN my blog.  This is pretty ridiculous as I'm from a south Asian background (my mother was Bengali, my father was Sindhi, I was born in north London) and I do love daal, and apart from the fact that one of my kids isn't always mad about daal - I did used to cook it often!

Since both my parents died very close together about 4 months ago, even my reluctant kid has asked for daal and rice - perhaps it's a link to the much-missed grandparents, a comfort connection, a taste from memories linked to the older generation, I don't know, but we've started cooking daal again recently and when I realised that my recipes are handed down from my mother, sister-in-law and grandmother, then I knew I must share them with the world so their love can continue to spread around the world.

You can spell it dhal, daal, dahl or however you want, the word just means "lentil".  There are probably as many recipes as there are cooks, but every family has their preferred way of cooking each lentil and there are definitely regional trends.  I'm not going to write an essay about this now, as many people have covered it far better than I could.

These are not cookbook recipes with measurements, tho I'm sure I will revisit them in the future when I have time to measure properly for the western cook, but for now, I want to get them down quickly for people to use the way they were taught to me.

Starting with the first I learned when I was at university and craving home-cooked food:

Masoor Daal (red lentil daal) (potentially vegan)

Take one large handful of red lentils per person and put it in a pressure cooker.  This will work the same in a traditional hob top or an electric type like Instant Pot.

I have very small hands, so I tend to do 6-8 handsful for 4 - 5 people.

Add 1 tsp of coriander powder (for this amount of lentils - less for less, more for more, you will learn your tastes over time)

Add a pinch of turmeric powder and a teaspoon of salt (see above for amount variations)

Add water from the tap until the surface is about an inch to an inch and a half above the top of the lentils in the pan.

Close the cooker and bring to the boil and then turn the heat down when the pressure is up and cook for 5-7 minutes.

If using Instant Pot, close the lid and use manual, 6 minutes.

If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can also soak the lentils overnight and then simmer for half an hour instead.

While the lentils are cooking, you make the "tempering".  This is a flavouring for the lentils, basically.  
First, slice one small onion and start it frying on a low flame in your oil/butter/ghee of choice.  When the onion is nice and soft, add 2 sliced garlic cloves and a finely chopped inch of peeled ginger.

When these are browned and the onions are sticky looking, add half a tin of chopped tomatoes, or 2 chopped fresh tomatoes if you prefer, and about a tablespoon of tomato puree.  Stir into the onions etc. By the time those are fully cooked in, the lentils should be cooked and the pressure can then be released if it hasn't already.  Now add the tempering to the lentils and stir well.  You may at this point want to add water, and perhaps salt, or if it's thinner than you wanted, allow it to cook without the lid to let it thicken.

If I'm serving this to guests, I often add cream and butter at this point, but then it's DEFINITELY not vegan, but there are obviously vegan creams or "butters" you could add if you want that richness.  None of it is necessary.

All you need now is some steamed basmati rice, a bowl, and a spoon if you want it.

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