Friday, 30 November 2012


There are times when standing and staring at the leftovers in the fridge is a prelude to producing an excellent dish. When enjoyed by friends and commented on however, I point out that often there are well over a dozen ingredients if you add them all up from the three meals that went to combine what we are eating.

The other day we ate such a dish; there was some left over dahl, not enough to stretch to anything on its own, but with the addition of a handful of frozen peas, always a standby, it might form a bigger part, I had also some roast potatoes that simply needed 10 minutes in a hot oven to bring back to life. I put these two together but at the last minute the desire for something a little fresh to finish it off, made me finely chop a couple of dill pickles and a few sprigs of fresh coriander to sprinkle on top. It's difficult to believe this simple combination, not many ingredients in this case, tasted as wonderful as it did, but somehow it delivered on almost all taste levels. I ate it up thinking about what would make it complete and yesterday made it all again from scratch, including everything from the first time but with the addition of some scallops.

This post is really my recipe for dahl, but if you wish to go on to make this totally unexpected dish, there are directions at the end of the recipe, what ever you do, do try the dahl, it's delicious.

You will need:
200g of split lentils
4 cloves of garlic
1 thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
1 teaspoon of black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon of chilli powder
1 teaspoon of turmeric powder
Some curry leaves
1 tablespoon of dried methi (fenugreek) leaves.
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil or ghee.

Begin by boiling the lentils in a litre of water, cook until the lentils are tender and disintegrating. Slice the garlic finely, chop up the fresh ginger and get together the spices. Heat a separate pan, I  use a small deep frying pan, add the oil and add the cumin and mustard seeds, as soon as they begin to pop, add the garlic and fresh ginger then the turmeric and chilli powder. Adding the powdered spices at this stage, when the garlic and ginger have reduced slightly the temperature of the oil will help reduce the risk of burning the spice. Continue to cook until the garlic begins to take on a little colour, this should take no more than a minute or two at the most, overcooking garlic brings out a more bitter flavour. Add the spice mix to the cooked dahl along with the curry leaves and the dried methi. I usually grind up the methi in the palms of my hand to create a more dusty texture, it seems to distribute the herb throughout the dahl. Cook the dahl on a gentle heat for a further 20 minutes adding more water if you find it getting a little dry. I usually eat dahl a little on the drier side myself, drier than the more soup like consistency you find served in many Indian restaurants, the choice is yours.

 If you feel moved to make the final dish you will need:
a quantity of the dahl
a cupful of frozen peas
a number of roasted potatoes
some cherry tomatoes chopped with a little balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper added
2 dill pickles finely chopped with fresh coriander
scallops, 3 or 4 per person
some cavolo nero, finely shredded and deep fried as a garnish (I warned you it was mad)

Heat the dahl, roast the potatoes, deep fry the cavolo nero and fry the scallops in a very hot pan with a little oil for no more than 1 minute on each side, this should allow you to not overcook them and at the same time create a nice caramelization on the outside. Over crowding the pan will reduce the heat and the scallops will stew rather than fast fry.

Assemble the dish, pile the dahl in the centre of a warmed dish, surround the dahl with the potatoes and the scallops, place a small amount of the marinaded tomato around the outside along with a sprinkle of the pickle and coriander mix, finally place a small pile of the deep fried cavolo nero on the very top. Deep fried greens are served in this country in Chinese restaurant as sea weed, they provide a delicious crunchy texture which is well worth making the effort to make. Be careful to use a large enough pan, the brassica will foam up rather quickly, but when the foaming subsides, the fine shreds should not take more than another minute to cook, drain on kitchen paper.

I, like many, read and flick through recipe books, I scan the list of ingredients, I study photos, always useful, and form an opinion as to whether or not I will ever create such a dish. I will be the first to admit, this one would pass me by and I would never have a second thoughts, however I stumbled across a dish, made of bits and pieces, the result delivers a combination of flavours and textures that makes me very happy I did.

I did cook the chopped stems of the cavolo nero in the dahl. but this was merely a way of avoiding waste, the dahl as described above is a perfectly complete dish, however the addition of butter would add something magical.

1 comment:

  1. This wonderful post reminds me that it's been a while since I made dhal...time for a quick fix tonight methinks! Cheers for this timely should have to go for long without the soul infusing goodness of dhal :)