This is my idea of comfort food, complete nourishment in a bowl. I once had a discussion with an Indian friend about this very dish, I was musing about whether I should post a recipe, and she scoffed at the preposterous idea about a less than glamourous bowl of lentils taking up a whole blog entry. Her exact words were "...but anyone can cook dhal." I do agree with her on that one but there are countless variations and not everyone of them tasty enough to warrant sharing with friends. I have tasted many versions and the ones that stand out are often from Indian restaurants. Something about getting those myriad of flavours just right. Well I think I may have accomplished that here, with some help of course, in the humble collection of recipes within the cookbook, Prashad. Lovingly produced by the successful Indian restaurant of the same name.
At the helm of Prashad is Kaushy the matriarch of the Patel clan who has kindly shared her Gujarati and South Indian vegetarian recipes in the cookbook. There is so much love in those pages that it is a pleasure to browse. This coming from someone who is hugely sceptical about Indian cookbooks, this is the first one (and only one in my collection) that I am ecstatic about because it's real Indian food from a home cook turned Restaurateur. Indian food for me is all about the lentils, beans and pulses, it's incredible how this cuisine manages to infuse these peasant stables with so much flavour. They make pancakes, breads, sweets, soups etc with this core ingredient. So inventive don't you think...
This dish is a family staple as it combines the lentils with a healthy dose of vegetables that the kids barely notice they're eating. The little man of the house laps it up in no time. If you are buying the spices for the first time try and get small quantities so that they are always fresh each time you cook. And feel free to add a chilli to heat things up abit. If you cannot find yellow split mung beans then double the quantity of split red lentils.
Creamy Dhal with Vegetables
150g yellow split mung beans
150g split red lentils
50g chopped carrots
50g chopped cauliflower
50g chopped green beans
50g green peas, frozen is fine
100ml macadamia nut oil plus 1 extra tsp
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/4 tsp hing (asafetida)
3 skinned tomatoes (to remove the skin blanch in hot water first before peeling)
1 tsp tumeric
1 tsp salt
3 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 sprig of curry leaves
Juice from 1/2 lemon
1/4 bunch of fresh coriander, chopped
knob of ginger, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, peeled
Combine the beans and lentils in a saucepan and rinse a couple of times in warm water until the water becomes clear, drain and add 900ml of boiling water to the saucepan and bring to the boil. Next add the carrots, cauliflower, beans and peas. Once it's boiled turn down the heat to medium and simmer with the lid partly open. If it starts to foam, use a spoon to skim this off the surface and add the teaspoon of macadamia nut oil to settle the dhal. Stir frequently and continue to cook for about 25 minutes or until the beans and lentils break down. Then remove from the heat.
In a mortar and pestle combine the ginger and garlic with a pinch of salt and pound away, there should be no chunky pieces. Blend the peeled tomatoes and set aside.
Next add the 100ml of oil to a small saucepan and heat for up to half a minute before adding the cumin and mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the hing and reduce to a low heat before adding the tomatoes. Quickly put the lid on the saucepan as the tomato water hitting the oil will spit up at you. Once it has settled add the ginger garlic mix, tumeric, ground coriander and cumin, curry leaves (remove stem) plus the salt and cook for approximately 1 minute. Add this to the pot of dhal together with the lemon juice, stir and simmer for a few minutes. Then add the garam masala, remove from the heat and sprinkle with the chopped coriander. Leave to infuse for several minutes before serving up with a portion of cooked brown basmati rice. Makes enough for 4.
Slightly adapted from the "Tarka Dhal" recipe in Prashad