Thursday, February 23, 2012

time to cook dahl

My man and boys are a bit fragile this week with coughs, fevers and sneezes. And er, almost a broken nose and knocked out teeth. River was tearing through the house boy-style at 7.30am yesterday and ran smack into the brick wall, yes there was blood from both nostrils, blood lip, blood gums, blood, blood, blood. No screaming or panicking from River – that was for me to do internally while getting wet facewasher and ice. Is there nothing a wet facewasher can’t fix? Fortunately I can continue to answer that with a wet facewasher fixes everything. Once I mopped up the blood and placed the ice on his rapidly swelling lips I assessed that all teeth were firmly in place and nose was not broken.

Two sick and one injured male in the house means my nerves are freyed.

Time to cook dahl.  

There’s something comforting and soothing about dahl, the cooking and the eating. I lugged four kilos of red lentils plus kilos of other dry goods home from our bulk buy group yesterday. The sack of lentils was staring at me from the bench all day and the thought of finding jars and space for it in the cupboard was too much. Cracking it open to make dahl and soothe the household was way more appealing. (In case you’re wondering dahl can be spelt dhal, daal, dahl or dal).

I’ve only ever made dahl with lentils but it can be made with other pulses.

I cook it with a different combination of spices each time. I’d be happy to eat it as is, however I think it is the accompaniments that make it special. Yes some rice, a simple dollop of beautiful natural yoghurt (sugar free of course) pappadams sometimes but always some sort of pickle.

The recipe below is for the dahl I made yesterday. Increase or decrease the garlic and vary spices depending on the flavours you like.

Speaking of flavour you can try my sister-in-law Davini’s finishing touch that elevates her dahl to heavenly heights. Davini has a fantastic feel for cooking beautiful wholesome food and the secret to her recipe is once you have the dahl simmering add the juice of one lemon and then place half a lemon, rind and flesh into the pot and leave until done. I love the edge the lemon juice gives to the flavours.

Dahl to soothe the day

1 large onion chopped
8 cloves of garlic crushed
1 generous teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon whole coriander seeds (as well as the flavour I like the crunch they add. Mustard seeds are good too)
1-2 teaspoon ground tumeric
5cm ginger root peeled and grated finely
3 cups split red lentils
25g butter or ghee
2.5 litres of water

Melt butter in large heavy based pot and fry onion until soft.
Add spices, ginger and garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes.
Pour in the lentils and water bring to boil then gently simmer for about 30 minutes. The dahl will be quite thick at this stage. If you prefer it a bit more soupier add some more water. We have recently switched from using sea salt to using Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (similar taste to tamari you can but it from health food stores) so I add Bragg’s to season the dahl towards the end of the cooking.

Pete’s tomato accompaniment

With a seemingly endless supply of tomatoes this year from our garden there is a new recipe involving tomatoes being created daily in our kitchen. Pete threw this together, he loves chilli and I don’t put chilli in the dahl to keep it child friendly but adding chilli to an accompaniment is the perfect way to keep everyone’s tastebuds and tummies happy.

1 large onion sliced into rings
3-4 medium tomatoes chopped roughly
1 small chilli sliced finely
a generous splash of Bragg’s seasoning
a knob of butter

Melt butter and gently fry onion til soft add tomatoes and chilli put a lid on and simmer for an hour. If it there is too much liquid leave the lid off and simmer to reduce.

The Hungry Girls’ eggplant pickle
Thanks to the Hungry Girls’ for permission to share this recipe from their second volume in The Hungry Girls’ Cookbook series. These clever, creative ladies  have recently released volume 3 check it out here .

I didn’t make eggplant pickle this time with the dahl but the recipe is excellent so wanted to add it.

Rachel Pitts is the recipe writer in the Hungry Girls trio, Rachel’s recipes are
my kind of good food, always nourishing, uncomplicated but with an interesting flavour twist.

2 eggplants
1 Spanish onion
2 lemons
1 small bunch coriander, roots removed, chopped
1 small bunch mint, leaves picked and chopped
¾ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil

Trim the tops off the eggplants and cut them in half lengthwise.
Place on a tray facing up and cover with foil.
Roast in a 200 C oven for around 40 minutes, until soft when pierced with a fork and leave to cool.
Meanwhile, slice the Spanish onion wafer-thin and place in a mixing bowl.
Add the juice of the lemons and stir.
Leave for around 2 hours, stirring occasionally, until the acid of the lemon has softened the onion and turned it iridescent pink.
Dice the eggplant and add it to the onion along with the coriander, mint, salt, sugar and oil.
Stir well and taste, adding extra salt or sugar if needed.

Happy cooking! And if you feel like it please share your dahl recipes.

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