Properly Dal Tadka,but we've always spoken of it the other way round in our extended family so that's the way it stays for this recipe. I think this is a Punjabi dish originally and a favourite of my Tamil aunt, who was raised in Malaysia and now lives in Australia; she passed this version to me, which I cook in New Zealand. It's a big old citizen of the world, lol.
The dal pea looks like this (right) in plant form, and yields these pretty orange split peas as pictured below. From these the finished dish derives its mild earthy savour while copious turmeric furnishes that lovely ocherous hue.
Dal is an ideal novice or dumbarse's introduction to Indian food because you can't really get it wrong. It's simple and you can overcook the hell out of it without anything bad really happening.
Tadka dal is on its own a cheap way to feed a mixed crowd and a great accompaniment to meat curries. This is a utilitarian version designed to make the most of whatever's lying around the kitchen/needs using up. You can make it several days ahead and is quite stunningly good for you. You'll fart afterwards, though. I do feel bound to say that. We had it for lunch and I'm gassing myself right now : /
Please be aware that this recipe is also extremely elastic and you can expand the relative quantities almost infinitely. Those listed will feed two peeps with leftovers. I'm adding a little more to my batch today so don't worry if it looks more than you expect. Nor do you need to stick religiously to what I've listed here; the pea/spice base is delicious without anything else thrown in (and is traditionally simple), so by all means get shit-happy with the additions.
W H A T Y O U ' L L N E E D
- 150g of dry split red peas / lentils
- 750ml water
- 1 onion
- 1 big tablespoon cumin seeds or powder
- 1 big teaspoon fresh or powdered turmeric
- oil for frying
- salt to taste
- garlic to taste, chili powder if you like.
- green and/or root vegetables of your choice: today I'm using a large zucchini, 1/3 of an eggplant, a leftover roast veg medley and silver beet leaves.
- a tablespoon of butter or ghee
First rinse the peas in cold water because they're often dusty. Then chop up your vegetables into bite sized chunks and fry the fresh ones with the onion and garlic, brown well, and toss through any that just need reheating such as the roasted stuff here. Set this mixture aside.
Throw the peas and spices into the same empty pot and add all the water. Bring this to the boil and cook briskly, stirring often for about 10 mins (a little longer for larger quantities), then turn down the heat to about a third of your source's capacity and simmer for about 20 mins, keeping an eye on it.
Once you think you've gotten the proper cooked look, stir in the reserved vegetables and allow to heat through and exchange flavours for about 10 mins. I like to add the butter or ghee at this point because delicious fat: it gives a silky rounded mouthfeel and tames the oily bitterness of turmeric. Salt to taste. Pepper is good too. Keep any greens out til the last minute before serving so they don't wilt down too far and lose their integrity.
LEFT This is how the mix looks after the first ten mins. Not done. You're aiming for a sludgy pease porridge as per the below image. The sludgier, the better. It takes on an almost floury puréed look so don't be alarmed or despondent when this occurs. You done good.
Garnish with a bit of finely chopped silver beet and curry leaf or coriander (< this is parsley because I didn't have any of those on hand). Dal gets a wee bit stiffer as it cools and loosens up again when reheated.
So many vegetarian recipes claim to please the meat lover but Tadka dal one of the few that didn't leave me feeling cheated even in my hardcore meat-fascist youth; serve with confidence. This is a hearty winter meal (especially when you're bored with stew) and an easy summer one, effortlessly tarted up for company with a variety of Indian breads like naan or paratha and finished off with kulfi. You can bulk it out with rice in a pinch, and if some arsehole's sitting there whining about its meatlessness, either show them the door or pander to their entitlement by serving with steak fried in cumin and fennel seeds, pepper and garlic.
Pease porridge in a pot, nine days old is barely an exaggeration; this stuff keeps really well in the fridge, unless you've added a vegetable that doesn't. Reheat slowly and gently or the nightmare burnt bottom shit gets real in the blink of an eye.