Like a lot of vegetarians I cottoned onto lentil dhal pretty early on, in my case via Rose Elliot’s “Cheap & Easy” vegetarian cookbook (see inset photograph of authentically stained and loose-leafed recipe page). Like most of the recipes in the book it was very much avec-training-wheels cooking, using the ubiquitous red lentil, garlic, onion, chilli, cumin, turmeric and creamed coconut, and ready to go in 30 minutes. However “Cheap & Easy” did What It Said On The Tin and kept me sustained with economic yet spicy protein for quite a while, before I eventually tired of it and moved onto other styles of cooking.
Since then I’ve discovered that there is indeed more than one lentil available in the world, and as such I’m going to be trying out a few different types and recipes of Dhal. First up, mung dahl, comforting and creamy but with an enlivening burn of fresh green chillis. Original recipe can be found simmering away here….
For the dhal400g mung dal (little tiny yellow lentils)
4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced Ginger and turmeric powder
2 medium green chillis, one chopped finely and deseeded, one left whole
For the tarkaGhee, butter or groundnut (peanut) oil 2 shallots, finely sliced
Rinse the lentils thoroughly, then put in a wok, cover with cold water and bring to the boil, skimming off any scum that rises to the surface.
Add the ginger, turmeric, garlic and chopped chilli plus a dash of salt. Turn down the heat and cover with a slightly ajar lid, and simmer for 1.5 hours, stirring occasionally or adding a little boiling water if the lentils are becoming too dry. The consistency of the final dhal can be as thin or thick as you wish, so add water accordingly.
Add a little more salt, then the whole chilli, and simmer for 15 minutes.
Heat the butter or oil in a pan over a medium high heat and add the shallots. Stir until golden, then add the cumin, mustard seeds and chilli powder. When the seeds begin to pop, add the tarka to the dhal mix and stir in. Serve with rice, breads and sliced tomato.