Ultimate dal

An easy staple. Dal happens at least once a week in our house. Over the last two and a half years, we’ve made our share of dals. From the BBC recipes, to vegrecipesofindia ones to cookbook ones, to ones claiming to be like restaurant tarka dal, from Gujarati dals to Pakistani dals – the is “The One”.  It is the dal that Jackie Kearney of ‘The Hungry Gecko’ uses as part of her ‘Hungry Gecko Dal Masala’. We got to try this cooked by her at her cookbook launch last week, and it was incredible! There is an aubergine masala to go with this that takes it to the next level, but in the interest of simplicity, I’ve left it out. Please shout if you want it. 

Dal is a good place to start for feeding your vegan guests – it’s cheap and the ingredients are easily available. All you have to do is put it in a pot and leave it, so no excuses. This dal uses three types of lentils -and I think it is worth it- however, if you struggle to find them all, you could leave one out and use more red lentils. I really would recommend going and stocking up on these, as once you’ve mastered lentilism (like mentalism), you will never look back. 

I’d serve this with chapatis and probably another vegetable curry, or the aubergine masala if I was inviting people over. I may even whip up some vegan mango lassis. Let me know if you want more! I will do an easy chapati recipe on the next post, but rice is good with this too. Also, you can buy chapatis in most supermarkets now, but I think of them as chacrapis, because they are nothing like authentic chapatis. 

Note: as with all good dals, there’s two steps to the process- the cooking of the lentils (‘dal’ – derived from dalna, Sanskrit meaning “to split” I.e. Split peas/beans = lentils) and the tarka or tempering (cooking aromatics in hot oil to release the flavour before pouring over the lentils).

Ingredients (for the dal)

100g red lentils

100g split and skinned mung dal (moong)

100g split non-oily toor dal

4 bay leaves 

1tsp ground turmeric 

2 garlic cloves peeled and left whole – punched a bit

1 or 2 large red dried chillies, or a fresh one split down the side 

1tsp salt 

Handful of coriander 

Lemon wedges 

Chapatis or rice

Ingredients (for the tarka or tempering)

2 tbsp oil

10-12 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 

8 fresh or dried curry leaves

Half tsp black mustard seeds

1. Wash all of your lentils/dal in a sieve and pan until the water is clear. If you don’t do this it’s not the end of the world, but you’ll get more scum to skim in the next part. 

2. Add the lentils/dal, bay leaves, turmeric, garlic, chillies and salt to a pan. Add 3 cups cold water. Bring to the boil. Skim off the scum with a spoon. 

3. Turn the heat down to a simmer, put a lid on if you like, and simmer for 50mins-1hour. Keep an eye on it every 15 or so, and add more water if necessary. You’re looking for a thick soup/thin porridge level. The lentils should all be soft – try them.

4. Once done, turn off the heat, but leave covered. In a frying pan, heat the 2tbsp oil.

5. Add the 10-12 sliced garlic cloves, and, keeping the heat medium, cook them til they are beginning to go golden. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves.

6. Once the mustard seeds pop and the garlic is golden brown all over, pour the whole lot over the lentils in the other pan and stir.

7. Add chopped coriander, a squeeze of lemon, and adjust the salt if necessary. If it’s too thick then add a little more water and mix. 

8. Serve!


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