Monday, November 12, 2007

My Sister's Visit - Indian Dhal (Lentils)


I wanted to try out some new Indian recipes when my sister came for a visit - since I think it's probably her favorite kind of food. For all of you Indian cooking experts out there, please comment and tell me how I could do better! I tried a lentil soup called "Dhal Panch-phoron" which translates to "red lentils with five-spice seasoning." The basic recipe, from "Secrets From An Indian Kitchen" by Mridvla Baljekar, is the following:

1 cup red split lentils
4 1/2 cups of water
1/2 t ground turmeric
1 t salt
2 T ghee (I used canola oil)
1/2 t five-spice mix
2-4 small dried red chilies (which I omitted)

The five-spice mix consists of 1 t cumin seeds, 1 t fennel seeds, 1 t black mustard seeds, 1 t onion seeds, and 1/2 t fenugreek seeds. Basically you simmer the lentils for about 25 minutes. The really neat part is what you do with the spices: you heat the oil in a steel ladle over the gas stove, then add the five-spice mix and chilies and let them sizzle a few minutes (until the chilies are blackened). You want to be careful to not burn the spices, you are just infusing the oil with the flavors. The aroma in the house is beautiful! Then you carefully lower the hot ladle into the lentils, and the spices spread to the whole dish. It is a wonderful technique and I'm so glad I learned it!

I improvised on my five-spice mix, just using what I had in the house: cumin seeds, fennel seeds, nigella seed and I had to just stir in some powdered fenugreek. But it still turned out absolutely wonderful. I'm sure it would be better if I got the right spices.

3 comments:

Sarah said...

Yeah this dish was the bomb. Definitely up there with Devon Street...teach me your ways Guru Anji.

Sarah said...

Yeah this dish was the bomb. Definitely up there with Devon Street...teach me your ways Guru Anji.

Ravi said...

Hey, Ang! Sarah told me how awesome this dish came out, and instructed me to post a comment to your blog. The technique you used where you fry the spices in oil first and then mix it into the dish is common, both in meat and vegetable dishes. In my language, they call it the "thaalimpu," which is a versatile mixture of spices that you fry and add to the dish. It varies from dish to dish. One thing that I think goes really well with this dish is a little garlic added to the lentils (not in the thaalimpu) and/or using fresh curry leaves in the thaalimpu. Curry leaves add a nice fragrance and depth to the dish, and smell so good in their own right. You can remove them, like bay leaves, or eat them (although the texture is sometimes unusual compared to the rest of this dish). Hope this helps!! (By the way, your kids are pretty much the cutest things ever.)