Monday, July 28, 2008

Best Dal Ever...

Or real close. Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni is an amazing cookbook. It is one of the best I have ever owned. Sometimes, I cut down on the oil a bit, but other than that it is perfection. The dishes highlight one or two ingredients. I have been in Boston pining for the cookbook and D emailed me one of my favorite recipes today. So here it is...

Lucknow Sour Lentils

Khatti Dal, a classic from the city of Lucknow in the state of Uttar Pradesh, is indeed a superbly flavored lentil dish. It is fragrant with garlic and fresh ginger root and laced with black cumin-seed-flavored oil. The characteristic feature of this dal is the tamarind jice added to perk up the flavors and provide a tang.

For 6 persons:

1 1/2 cups pink lentils
1 tablespoon finely choppped fresh ginger root
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 one-inch ball tamarind pulp, or 1 teaspoon mango powder, or 1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 cup boiling water
2 teaspoons Kosher salt (but I highly recommend starting with less and working up)

For tadka:
5 tablespoons Indian vegetable shortening, or light vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black cumin seeeds, or 1/2 teaspoon white cumin seeds
1 tablespoon mashed or minced garlic
1/4-1/2 teaspoon red pepper

1. Pick clean and wash lentils following directions on page 327
2. Put the lentils in a deep saucepan along with the turmeric, ginger, and 5 cups water, and bring to the boil, stirring often, as the lentils have a tendency to settle at the bottom of the pan. Reduce ehat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes, stirring now and then.
3. While the lentils are cooking, put the tamarind pulp in a small bowl, add 1 cup of boiling water, and let soak for 15 minutes. Mash the pulp wiht the back of a spoon or using your fingers. Strain the liquid into another bowl, squeezing out as much juice as possible from the pulp. Discard the stringy fibrous residue.
4. Add the tamarind juice to the cooked lentils, and continue cooking for an additional 15 minutes (if you are using mango powder or lemon juice in place of tamarind, do not add yet). Turn off the heat, and beat the lentils with a wire whisk or wooden spoon for 1 minute to smooth the puree. Measure the puree and if necessary add enough water to make 6 cups. If you are using mango powder or lemon juice, stir it in now with the salt. (The lentil puree may be prepared ahead and refrigerated for up to 3 days. It also freezes well. Defrost thoroughly before proceeding with recipe).
5. When ready to serve, simmer the puree over low heat until piping hot. The lentil puree thickens with keeping, so check the consistency again. You may need to add 1/2 cup water to bring the puree to the right consistency. Check for salt and transfer to a serving bowl while you make the spice-perfumed butter (tadka).
6. Heat the shortening over medium-high heat in a small frying pan. When it is very hot, add cumin seeds, and fry for a moment or two (white cumin seeds will take about 10 seconds). Remove the pan from the heat, add red pepper and the mashed garlic, and stir rapidly for 10 seconds or until the garlic loses its raw smell and begins to color--do not let it brown. Pour the butter with its seasonings over the lentil puree. Stir once or twice--just enough to lace the puree with ribbons of perfumed butter. Serve immediately in small bowls.

Thoughts and feelings: I rarely pick the lentils. I think I wash them occassionally. That may be me just trying to make myself look better.
I have only used lemon and it still turns out delicious.
I usually halve the oil.
If you burn the seeds or garlic in the oil, it is really easy to redo them. It is not easy to redo the lentils. One time I ruined it, because I burned the cumin seeds and for some reason didn't realize how easy it was to just make another batch.

CORRECTION of MY CORRECTION: The original post said 2 teaspoons salt and I was pretty sure that it is supposed to be 1/2 teaspoon...but upon double checking it is 2 teaspoons (see comments).

Friday, July 25, 2008


I moved to Boston several weeks ago. I got a job writing SPSS syntax for the feds. I planned to get a CSA and find a local dairy but have been extremely lazy. Any suggestions are welcome on where to find either. Also, if you are in the area and have furniture, I only have a bed at the moment. Recipes to follow...