Few things are as satisfying and tasty as a bowl of dahl. It is one of my favourite things to cook, especially as the nights get longer and colder.
I've spent many evenings obsessing and drooling over little details in dahl recipes, analysing spice percentages and embellishments. There is no shortage of inspiration out there and just a few of the many chefs and books that I can recommend include the following: The Indian Cookery Course by Monisha Bharadwaj, Asma's Indian Kitchen by Asma Khan and Saffron Soul by Mira Manek.
With so many variations, unique combinations and styles there is no such thing as the perfect dahl. However, there are a few absolute necessities when creating your own at home that I've seen repeatedly in books like the above.
First, the all-important soaking of lentils. Dependent on the lentils that you use you may need to soak them to soften them, and allow the flavour and texture to develop. Split red lentils shouldn't need this, but green lentils do!
Second, is a garlic and ginger paste, following a 2:1 ratio - so twice as much garlic as ginger. I've found this to be a really key factor in making a moreish dahl, although not every recipe has this.
Third is time. The spices come out bolder when they are fresh, so make sure to use fresh and organic spices. But also, know that the longer and slower a dahl is cooked the more flavourful it will be too as this allows the spices to soak into the lentils and develop the flavour. I always feel that dahl can taste better the day after, so always make a double batch!
I have combined my three must-haves in this a green lentil dahl recipe that we made at Wunder HQ the other day. It is filled with rich warming aromas to satisfy any occasion, and it may just be the perfect dahl ;)
For the dahl:
- 1 large onion, diced
- 6 cloves of garlic, minced
- 3cm of ginger, minced
- 1 green chili, finely sliced
- 2 tsp organic turmeric powder
- 1 tsp organic coriander powder
- 1 tsp organic cinnamon powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 2 tsp fennel seeds
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 tbsp tomato paste
- 200g green lentils (chana dahl)
- 2 tbsp coconut oil or organic ghee
- 1 bay leaf or curry leaf
- salt to taste.
For the rice:
- 200g basmati rice, soak for 30mins or wash your rice in cold water.
- 1 pinch of Golden Saffron
- 3 cardamom seeds, crushed
- 2 cloves
- salt to taste.
Begin by soaking the lentils in a pot of warm water for 1 hour. Then drain the water from the lentils and add 600ml of water and your bay/curry leaf and fennel seeds. Bring to a gentle simmer - this will be cooking for 1 hour at least - the longer the better and if you need to add more water, then do!
Get the rice going - add twice the amount of water to the rice, and include you cardamom seeds and cloves to simmer with the rice. Stir once, then keep the lid on until cooked - which should be amount 20 minutes.
Add a small amount of freshly boiled water and let this infuse with your pinch of saffron - only 2 tbsp of water to extract the aroma and colour from the threads. This can be added to the rice once it is cooked.
15 minutes before the dahl is done dice the onions, ginger, garlic, and chili. Add the oil to a heavy bottom pan and cook the onions until they are very soft. Then include the garlic/ginger paste and chili - fry for 1minute before adding the spices. Fry for another minute before adding the tomato paste and make sure that all is mixed well. At this point you can also add some extra embellishments if you like - roasted aubergines, garden peas and carrots all work well.
Test the dahl at intervals to see how cooked the lentils are. Add salt to taste and when the lentil are creamy and add a smooth texture when stirred add in all of your spices, garlic, onions etc. Check the balance of salt before serving alongside your rice.
I've also added a fried egg here with an Indian twist, 1/2 tsp of organic turmeric powder, a pinch of cumin seeds, and a few chili seeds for an extra kick!
If you've got this far then you've got it in you to try this recipe - show us your creations and let us know what you think :)