Sunday, July 08, 2012

Dhal 2

Many recipes for curries suggest you make the sauce with water, and sometimes quite a lot of it, rather than stock. I have always been a little dubious about this, and have even sinned against authenticity by using a stock cube – or rather half of a cube – in order to add a body of savoury flavour. But perhaps water allows the spices to express themselves with a little more freshness. It certainly did in this dhal, which I made just for myself. You could, of course, adjust the quantities as appropriate.

100g red lentils
1tsp turmeric
1/4tsp cayenne pepper
1tbsp creamed coconut
1tsp cumin seeds
1tsp coriander seeds
5 cardamom pods
5 black peppercorns
Sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2tsp ginger, minced

Wash and rinse the lentils. Put them in a small saucepan with water to cover, the turmeric, cayenne, and coconut. Bring to the boil and simmer, covered. Check them frequently: they absorb water readily, and may need more. The aim is to achieve the consistence of thick soup once they are soft, after about 20 minutes. Uncover the pan if the consistency is too runny.

Meanwhile, put the cumin, coriander, cardamom, and black pepper into a small saucepan on a gentle heat. Cook until they give off a toasty aroma. Grind the spices in a mortar.

Warm a tbsp or two of sunflower oil in a heavy-bottomed pan, throw in the onions and garlic, and fry until the onions are soft, yellow, and sweet. Add more oil if they threaten to catch. Add the ground spices, and fry for about five minutes longer, again ensuring that they don’t catch. Add the garlic, and cook for a further minute.

Tip the lentils into the spiced onions, add salt to taste, and simmer for a minute longer. Finish the dish with a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, if you like.

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