It is raining. Proper grown up rain. No wishywashy, dampen the odd leaf drizzle, but a full-on-soil-soaking-persistent downpour. Jubilation!
Hang on a minute, I was going to do some potting on at home today, that plan has been scuppered. I try to stay dry on my days off, there is enough soggy gardening at work. A free day, with no obligations or demands on my time, what a treat. How shall I use this precious time? I will put my feet up and watch the omnibus edition of Star Trek. That would be great. But the adverts are such a bore. I have a dedicated book to read during these mainly nauseating interludes, it is called my Advert Break Book. Brilliant eh?
Today I feel like a change. Perhaps I could cook something. We have Keralan fish curry for tea, as yet a virtual dish although I have faith it will become reality, I will made a dhal to go with it. I do love dhal. Then I could share my culinary experiences. It has been ages since we have done cooking!
The recipe is from the wonderful Hairy Bikers‘ book Great Curries, which luckily for them (and me) is not in contravention of the Trades Description Act. It is indeed full of great curries. Including this one. Which is actually an amalgam of two dhals. Needs did must. One day I had set my heart before realising that we were right out of red lentils (schoolgirl error), the shops were closed/too far away/I was in my pajamas and I really, really, really, really wanted dhal (laughable middle class problem). It was necessary to regroup and this was the result. As always, the real recipe, or approximation, is in normal font, my interpretation in italics.
All-in-one Split Pea Dhal mash-up with Massoor (Split Red Lentil) Dhal
Wash 300g split peas and then put in a pan with 1.2l of water and one teaspoon each of turmeric and garam masala.
I’ve only got 178g of split peas (distinct feeling of deja vu) so ask OH to buy some more when he get the Sunday papers. He tells me they are very difficult to find. I disagree. He returns triumphant. Mix the old and new which I am not sure is a good thing as a voice in my heads says they might cooks at different rates. Old ones a bit tougher. Hard luck. It is done. Pretty certain that the brown stuff in the unmarked jar is garam masala. Add to washed peas, water and turmeric. So far so good. Hope that is garam masala. Could be interesting.
Bring to the boil and skim off any scum that forms on the top.
All the spice seems to be at the top, so surely I will lose it if I “skim”? Make a token effort just to keep the HB lads happy.
Fry one onion in ghee or oil until pale golden brown.
Ghee? A step too far for OH and possibly the staff at the local Tescos, although I may be doing them a disservice. Stick to oil. Onion, no probs. Do a little more skimming. Nice word, unlike scum which although descriptive has a nasty feel about it. Popped in to see how Jean Luc was getting on, got a little distracted, onions dark bronze brown.
Turn heat down and grate in 15g ginger and 2 garlic cloves and cook for 2 minutes.
Cut piece of ginger, not enough, cut a bit more, still short, a slither and we are slightly over. No matter, once peeled it should be about right. Getting bored now. I hate grating ginger, even though I now have a swish Japanese grater, it doesn’t prevent nail filing incidents. Drop piece into hot pan several times, retrieve without burning fingers too badly. Use garlic crusher. Decide 3 garlic cloves would be better as we love it and I am a rebel. Oops forgot to turn heat down. Remove from heat completely and frantically scrape bottom of pan. No one will know.
Add 2 chopped medium tomatoes, half a teaspoon of salt and a whole plump green chilli, split up the side.
Add 3 chopped medium tomatoes (see above), half a teaspoon of salt and a whole plump green chilli. Cut the green stalky things out of the toms, does anyone else do that or am I just been finicky?
Stir for 5 minutes until tomatoes are soft, stirring often, and add to split peas.
Star Trek denouement imminent, turn heat up, stir for a couple of seconds and chuck it in with the juvenile dhal. Rush to find out that Data was not having a funny turn, due to the fact that he is an android he could sense the parasites that were sucking the blood from the rest of the Enterprise crew. Mind at rest now.
Loosely cover and simmer for 60-75 minutes until thick and soft, stirring regularly.
Set to simmer. After about 15 minutes realise I had forgotten to split the chilli. Poke about in the pan until I find the offending capsicum, then gleefully stab at it for a while.
Shortly after remember I had forgotten to set the timer. Last year my dog leapt off the top of the fridge, broke an ear and no longer rings. This is a disadvantage when you are a timer. I have a new one. An enigmatic cat. I love him, but not quite as much as the original. While we are waiting you might as well take a look.
Stir , rest, stir, rest, stir. Still didn’t set the timer, too late now. Stir, bit liquidy still, perhaps I should leave the lid off for a while. Stir, hungry now, toast crumpets. Notice the fairies have not yet done the washing up, do washing up.
Scoff crumpets, cambozola and tomato since you ask. Do more washing up. Forget to stir. Doing plopping lava impersonation as warned by HBs. Turn off. A little scraping. Taste. Yum. Taste again. May have repeated several times just to make sure seasoning is correct. Well that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
Nearly tea time. Gently re-heat dhal.
Just before serving add Tadka. Fry 1/2 teaspoon each of chilli flakes, cummin seed and black mustard seed in oil for 15 seconds, stirring constantly. Do not burn. Add pinch of asafoetida and stir into dhal.
Google Tadka. “Indian tempering technique often used as a finishing touch to dhal”. Great. Must focus now as cat does not do seconds even if I remember to set him. Measure out ingredients. Meditate. Get mini-frying pan ready. Tips up but I catch it. Add everything except asofoetida. Stir and count. Manage not to get distracted. I am a yogic master. Ninja cook. No time to gloat. Sprinkle last ingredient, the mysterious asofoetida. Stir into dhal. Taste. Double yum.
After all that palaver, and more, we have arrived at our destination, dhal, fish curry, rice and nan. All we need is for someone to eat it. That is the easy bit.
There are thousands of different recipes for dhal, but this one comes highly recommended, not by a bon vivant or food critic, but by a gardener with a good appetite. Give it a go, although it is possibly best to follow the chaps recipe rather than mine. It makes a good amount, you could always half the quantities but why bother with all those calculations, it is even better the next day and the day after……
The crumpets were good too. You can probably master them on your own.