Saturday, February 12, 2011

O, You Beautiful Dal

Oh, you beautiful dal, you great big beautiful dal.
Let me put some rice about you; 

I don't want to eat without you... 

This is one of the best dals I have ever made, which is sayin' summat. It came about in the ordinary, organic fashion - i.e. based on what was already in the kitchen - but I'm glad I took the trouble to jot things down during the process, because the finished product was so good that it will certainly be appearing again. (In fact, it's got "company food" written all over it, so future dinner guests: start getting excited!)

Chana Dal with Kale and Coconut
~ 1-2 tbsp. coconut oil
~ 1 tbsp. panch phoran 
~ 1 tsp. salt
~ 1 tsp. each: cumin seeds, black mustard seeds
~ 1 large onion, chopped
~ 1 heaping tbsp. each: minced garlic, freshly grated ginger
~ 1 tsp. each: chat masala, cumin, fenugreek, chili powder, salt 
~ ½ tsp. turmeric
~ 2 large carrots, sliced lengthwise and then into half-moons
~ 1 10 oz package mushrooms, sliced (about 2 cups)
~ 1.5 cups chana dal (yellow split peas)
~ 1-2 dried red chili peppers, chopped fine 
~ 1 14 oz. can light coconut milk
~ 1 14 oz. can regular coconut milk
~ 1.5 cups water
~ 1 smallish head of kale, chopped 
~ ½ - ¾ cup fresh, chopped cilantro (optional, but awesome)

~ In a colander or sieve, rinse and pick over the dal, then place in a bowl and cover with cold water; allow to soak for at least an hour (the longer the better).
~ In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the coconut oil over medium-high heat and and toast the panch phoran, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds until they begin to splutter and pop (about 1-2 minutes; you might want to cover the pot for this part).
~ Add the onions and cook about 3-4 minutes, until softened.
~ Add the garlic, ginger, and dry seasonings; saute for another minute or so.
~ Stir in the carrots and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes more.
~ Drain the chana dal, then add it to the pot along with the chopped red chilis. Stir to combine, and cook another 2 minutes 
~ Pour in the coconut milk and 1.5 cups of water; cover the pot, and bring to a boil.
~ Reduce heat to low, crack the lid a few inches, and cook for 50-60 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to prevent sticking. (If it looks thicker than you'd like, you can add a little extra water, but remember that we're not making soup!)
~ Add the chopped kale and cook for another 10 minutes.
~ Stir in the fresh cilantro, taste for seasoning, and serve hot over basmati rice.

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