Route 79 : Daal (Yellow)

The effects of feeling hungry on the way home


March 20 2004

Yellow Daal

This dish is really tasty - and it's a lot easier than you think. Get the following ingredients together:

* 2 cap fulls of yellow daal lentils (Moong Daal)
* 1 or 2 onions - finely chopped
* 2 teaspoons salt.
* 1.5 teaspoon haldi (turmeric)
* 2 teaspoons garam masala
* 2 teaspoons ground coriander
* 1.5 teaspoons ground cumin
* Chunks of garlic, ginger and chillie
* Half tin of peeled chopped tomatoes
* A generous knob - of butter!
* Some freshly chopped (or frozen chopped) coriander

Moong Daal

Moong Dal is the small-grain yellow split lentils that you can get in pretty much any Asian/Indian shop -and sometimes also at your local supermarket - e.g. Asda, Safeway etc. For this recipe - you need a couple of cap-fulls of the above style jar. I know I'm not being precise - but that is what Indian cooking is all about! Let's just say that the amount of daal you need is about three or four handfulls. Be careful - because by handful I don't mean "cupped" handful - I mean as much as you can pick with one hand - which, trust me, isn't a lot - as these daal grains are quite small and will fall out of your hand just like sand does. Imagine it to be like rice - you only need a little to make quite a lot. I usually make enough to serve two or three people for today - and enough for two people in terms of leftovers for tomorrow. Make sure you wash the daal thoroughly - removing any loose husks or stones/dirt etc.

Put the washed lentils into a large stove-top pot and add enough water to cover the daal about half an index finger in depth. You don't need to worry about adding too much water - as it will simmer and evaporate away anyway - and you will almost certainly need to add more water later on. The rest of the ingredients are fairly self-explanatory by now - especially if you have been following these recipes:

And here is why this recipe is so easy. Just throw in all the rest of the ingredients except the butter. Make sure that the onions are finely chopped. Stir it all up and put on high flame and bring to the boil. Then turn down the flame (put the lid half-on) and keep the mixture simmering somewhat aggressively. You need to let it simmer for around 1.5 hours - stirring every 15 minutes or so - and adding more water if necessary. It will be necessary - as the mixture will lose a lot of water in the first 45 mins. So don't be afraid to add more water - you can always simmer off the water until you get the right thickness later on. Basically - you want to ensure that the daal gets to a thick-ish sort of consistency - and is to your liking. (I like mine to be a bit like the consitency around about just like the potato and leek Covent Garden soup.) In the first 45 mintes - the mixture will froth a little - don't be put off by this - just stir it all up and keep it simmering - as I said - somewhat agressively.

After about an hour and a half it will be done! Taste it in order to see if any more salt or chillie powder needs adding - and make sure that the lentils are soft and tender - and breaking up in a mushy fashion - not hard! Be sure at this point to add a big dollop of butter. Melt it into the mixture - and stir it all about. This will thicken it and make the texture absolutely heavenly! Simmer it like this for about 15 more minutes - it will bubble in a gloopy style - and there should be no more "froth". Don't worry about overdoing it - it's better to overcook it than not. When it has acheived your preferred consistency - turn off the flame and sprinkle on a generous handful of freshly chopped coriander leaf and stir it in. Let it rest with the lid on for 5 minutes and it's ready to serve!

This dish is best served on a bed of basmati rice - or in a deep bowl with some warmed wholemeal pitta bread, roti or toast - with a side salad of chunky cucumber, tomato, onion with a dash of lemon or vinegar. Very tasty - and very easy to make!

Update: Somebody emailed me asking about "tarka daal". Well - the "tarka" is the fried onion/spice/tomato mixture that you typically start off with when cooking in Indian methods. You will notice that the above daal recipe involves no frying. (By the way - the lack of fried stuff in it is also a reason why this type of food is often prescribed by Indian mothers for not-feeling-to-well children. I remember when I was a kid - my mum would cook daal like this whenever I was recovering from sickness or bad flu etc.) Anyway - back to the point: so - this daal doesn't involve the "tarka" preparation stage. So - it is very common - especially when serving up the leftovers the next day - to "freshen" or "liven" the dish by creating a tarka in a separate pot (see the second half of the saag recipe for details on how to make the tarka - but for daal - use long thinly-sliced onion instead of the finely chopped onion used in the saag tarka) - and then just pour it into the daal when you are ready to serve up. Some people like to pour the tarka over the top of the daal - and leave it there as a kind of garnish as it is served up on the table. Only when the first person takes a helping is the tarka stirred up into the rest of the daal.

Have you tried this? Even if you haven't - let me know what you think!
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