Encyclopædic Dal

The recipe for this rather well-recieved Vegan dal dish was mooched from Khalid Aziz' Encyclopedia of Indian Cooking, ISBN 1-8547-1026-5, which gives it the dismayingly prosaic and unacceptably vague name "Indian Lentils."

Since I have never faithfully followed Aziz' recipe, I shall describe my own hacked, compromised, and roughly doubled version instead. The ingredients list looks a little daunting, but its not bad if you've already made the jump of acquiring a basic indian spice collection. If not, what are you waiting for?

I find life less stressful if I take all these dry seasonings and measure them into a bowl in advance. Otherwise, I end up frantically juggling measuring spoons while something scorches.
These I put in another bowl.
Pick through the lentils, rinse them, and boil them. I kept adding water, so I'm not sure how much you need to start with. I'd say give them about an inch over the top and keep an eye out. Let them cook until the lentils have softened, and the cooking water has started to thicken. This should take a little more than half an hour.

Meanwhile, chop up those onions and garlic, and fry them in the oil. when they've started to soften (two or three minutes), add the first batch of spices, and fry for another minute or two. Then add the second batch, and, stirring frequently, fry for another couple minutes. I found at this point that the powders had drunk up all of the initially huge-seeming quantity of oil.

Aziz says at this point to add the lentils to the pan. Because of the relative sizes of the vessels in question, I inverted this, and stirred the onions and spices into the pot of lentils.

Add the salt, and cook for another five minutes.

Add the coconut milk. If you like, you can also add some dried coconut for texture.

You now have a pot of the nastiest-looking gloppy yellow stuff you could imagine, though it tastes rather lovely. You are urged to hack up and toss in some fresh tomatoes just before serving to lend a little visual variety.

[/recipes/] 141 comments

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