Sunday, 28 October 2012

Dal Makhani

There are so many variations of Dal throughout India, the differences are down to seasonality and regional produce availability, for instance in the north of India, Ghee, cream and dry spices are predominantly used in the cuisine, however in the south the use of coconut cream and fresh spices and herbs are what makes the southern cuisine so different from the north. Dal Makhani was the very first dish that I ate when I landed in Delhi. I remember at the time feeling hopelessly lost, I had only just left home and waved goodbye to my parents in the airport, and had cried almost all the way to Delhi, and in hindsight I maybe should have chosen somewhere a little less intense as my first port of call during my backpacking adventure. As soon as I landed in Delhi, complete with my brand new back pack and shiny walking boots, I came down to earth with a huge bang, the poverty and cultural diversity scared me to death in all honesty, and after a few hours hiding away in my hotel room hunger pangs set in. This was the very first dish that I ate and as soon as I tried it I knew I was going to be fine, I stopped worrying about where I was and stopped missing home, this dish propelled me to find out more about street food and was the metaphoric comforting hug I needed to spark my enthusiasm and encourage me to travel further. Mung Beans are probably my favourite pulse to use in a dal and this mild flavoured curry is so rich a creamy it would suit any palate.

This serves 4 very greedy people

500g of mung beans that have been soaked overnight (probably about 250g of dried beans)
3 tbsp of ghee
150g of chopped red onion
3/4 tsp of onion seed
20 curry leaves
1 1/2 tsp of cumin powder
1/2 tsp of chilli powder
1 tsp of turmeric powder
5 cardamon pods
3 tsp of maldon salt
50g of garlic paste (crushed in a pestle and mortar)
50g of ginger paste (crushed in a pestle and mortar)
2 1/2 pints of water
1 chicken or vegetable stock pot
100ml of double cream
1 tbsp of sugar
50g of chopped fresh cherry tomatoes
the juice of half a lemon
a handful of chopped corriander

In a sauce pan Melt the ghee on a high heat and add the curry leaves, onion seed and chopped onions, fry until the onions are golden brown, this is what gives a northern curry depth of flavour, follow this with the dried spices and cardamon pods, fry for a few minutes until the rawness has been cooked out of the spices. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for a couple of minutes, add the mung beans and water and cook for a couple of hours, the longer the better, if you need to top up the water you can. When the mung beans are beginning to break down into a porridge like texture add the stock pot, the salt, sugar, cherry tomatoes and the cream, cook for a further half an hour and finish with the lemon juice and chopped corriander.
Serve with chapatis and rice.

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