rushthatspeaks: (Default)
[personal profile] rushthatspeaks
Today I had to make something that could be a small lunch for me and then sit around until it could be a dinner for two other people four hours later, and also we had no food in the house. (Well. Cans. Spices. That one shallot at the back starting to look rather sad.)

So I made chana dal, and it was ludicrously delicious.

A few years ago I was going through a picnic food phase, because we had new bento boxes, and I cooked a dal out of one of Madhur Jaffrey's earlier books (which I had out of the library) and have remembered it fondly ever since. It was dark red-brown, rich, and evocative, so flavorful I couldn't believe it had come out of my kitchen. I failed to write down which book it was from.

One of her dal recipes is findable on the internet, but ten seconds of looking over the recipe made it clear that it isn't the one I was thinking of.

So today's chana dal was a cross between the Madhur Jaffrey recipe I found on the web, the Madhur Jaffrey recipe I vaguely remember from lo this long time back, and the things one standardly does to Indian food to build and improve flavor. It was golden-brown, rich, subtle, had a magnificent aftertaste, and was so good I couldn't believe it had come out of my kitchen. This time I am writing it down.

Ingredients:

1 can/ 1 1/2 cups dry chickpeas (either one, doesn't matter)
5 cups water
2 cloves garlic
fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. turmeric
1/4-1 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. garam masala
1 shallot/medium onion, peeled and chopped finely
1/2 tsp. ground cumin or whole cumin seeds
3 T butter/ghee/mild oil
4 T tomato paste

Wash the chickpeas, whether they're canned or dry. Put them in a large pot with five cups of water. Bring it to a boil and remove any scum you see on the surface.

Peel and toss in a clove of garlic. Slice two thin slices off a piece of ginger root without peeling it and add those too. Stir in the turmeric, turn the heat to low, and put the lid on the pot, very slightly ajar. Simmer for an hour (you can totally ignore it during this time). At some point here peel and chop your other clove of garlic finely.

Take the lid off and turn up the heat if you think there's still a lot of water in the bottom-- your goal now is to have it basically dry after an additional half hour, so calibrate your heat accordingly. Melt the butter in a large saucepan on a different burner over low heat.

Sweat the shallot/onion in butter very, very slowly. If you don't do this often, you should probably stir it continuously; I can do this by stirring it about every two minutes and doing other things away from the stove around the edges, but I do not recommend that to beginners. The shallot/onion will take about ten to twelve minutes to achieve light golden and it should still be very soft and limp.

Every five minutes or so while you're cooking the shallot reach over and stir the chickpeas so they don't stick to the bottom of the pot and you can see how much water's left. When they boil basically dry it's fine to take them off the heat. When you take them off, fish out the ginger and throw it away; the garlic should have disappeared entirely. Add the salt and garam masala and stir thoroughly.

But don't forget to keep stirring your shallot while you do that! When the shallot is a lovely light golden add the chopped garlic and continue stirring for the maybe one more minute it will take to bring the garlic color to match. Then add the cumin and stir more briskly. The cumin will toast to brown and start soaking up liquid, or if it's whole seeds they should start to color. At this point add the tomato paste and beat it all together (it will require firmness to make sure it's really evenly incorporated). Continue frying until the tomato paste is heated through.

The chickpeas should be either off the stove or just about to come off. If you were to want to make this a spicy dish, you could either a) throw a little chili-garlic paste into the chickpeas at this point or b) throw a little chili powder into the shallot pan at this point and fry another ten seconds. But it doesn't actually require spiciness to be a good meal.

Scrape shallot pan into chickpea pot and mix thoroughly together. Serve warm or cool, with some mint-or-cilantro-spiced yogurt on the side. Probably wants pita. Almost certainly wants a secondary dish of green vegetable or green salad. Will go further than you think as it is full of protein, and I expect the recipe would double nicely. Also, chana dal keeps very well.

Date: 2010-04-28 06:38 am (UTC)
sovay: (Morell: quizzical)
From: [personal profile] sovay
I have a collection of Indian myths and folktales retold by Madhur Jaffrey. I had read the book in elementary school and rediscovered it as an adult, at which point I realized that she, you know, also cooked. (Oddly, I had the same experience with a book of Maori myths and Kiri Te Kanawa.) Excuse me while I steal this recipe.

Date: 2010-04-28 07:24 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] desperance.livejournal.com
My first agent was also Madhur Jaffrey's agent at the time. And took a phone call from Madhur, the first time I was there: "Yes, darling, you fly in from New York and we'll have the party here, at my flat... No, no, you don't need to cook, we'll order food in... Yes, I know it's a cookbook we're launching, but you don't want to spend all day in the kitchen..."

Date: 2010-04-28 11:50 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com
I love Madhur Jaffrey's recipes. I'll definitely try this one.

Date: 2010-04-29 01:03 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] asakiyume.livejournal.com
I made this tonight!

It was delicious.

Date: 2012-10-17 03:03 pm (UTC)
to_love_a_rose: picture of a bed pillow, no text (Default)
From: [personal profile] to_love_a_rose
I made this subbing green lentils for chic peas (and making a few other changes based on timing/what was in the pantry) and it came out wonderfully. Thanks for the inspiration. :)

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