Friday, June 3, 2011

The First Magic Dal

I had tasted dal before. But this was the first Magic Dal!
I was living in a shared student house on the outskirts of Bendigo and we were having friends over, and everyone made an Indian dish for our feast.

I found a recipe using yellow split peas and I made it carefully: I remember how long it took for the split peas to cook, and how careful I was not to let them catch on the bottom of the pan as they got thicker and mushier.

And I remember adding the tarka and having a taste and being bowled over by the delicious addictiveness of it.  So yum!

I carefully copied out the recipe and remade it often. It was several years later that I heard people recommend Madhur Jaffrey's books, and then found my recipe in one of them.

Now I live in a very multicultural part of Melbourne, the ingredients are easy to come by, and I make the recipe with the little chana dal instead of yellow split peas, and I double most of the spices that go in it too!

You can see Madhur's recipe here: Chana Dal

This is how I do it:
I wash a cup of chana dal about 7 times (saving the water for my garden) until the water runs clear.
I cook them with 1tsp of turmeric powder and a teaspoon of finely grated ginger.
(I do use my pressure cooker being extremely careful to skim the pulses when they begin to boil, then adding the spices and a little oil and pressure cooking for 15 minutes. Often they need a little longer cooking after that, but it is SO much quicker than the hour and a half they take on the stovetop.
Disobey your pressure cooker instructions at your own risk!)

When done, add a tsp of salt and 1/4 tsp of garam masala and stir to mix.

Now I heat 3tbsp of ghee (yes you really need that much!) in my small cast iron frying pan. When it is hot add in 1 tsp of cumin seeds and then 2 crushed garlic. This browns so quickly in my pan that I turn off the flame as soon as it goes in. By the time I add 1/4 tsp of my chili powder (which is on the hot side) the garlic is golden and the cumin is fragrant. The chili powder (properly cayenne, but here in Melbourne we mostly call it chili powder. And usually spelt chilli!) froths a little.
Now pour this alchemical mixture into the dal and stir it through. Magic has happened!