Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

In pursuit of dahl

on December 6, 2010

I must apologise for dissappearing on you for a while – it’s been hectic!  But have no fear, I am back and I’ll be inundating you with Christmassy recipes.  But not just yet, I’m still eating comfort food.  This was actually a post I wrote a couple of weeks ago but I didn’t get around to adding the photo until just now.  I have actually made the second of these recipes again since, with chicken this time, and without the chana dahl (it takes longer to cook and I was in a hurry!) and it was as delicious as the first time.

Having spent a number of years growing up in Nepal and India, there is nothing quite so comforting and so satisfying as dahl.  Even saying ‘dahl baht’ brings back memories of my didi cooking in our kitchen, all the wonderful smells of spices and delicious curries and dahls.  This is one of those things that you really don’t want al dente.  The mushier the better.  I miss my didi and her wonderful cooking.  And I do my best to replicate it, but it’s never quite the same.

However, despite not being my didi’s recipes, these two turkey dahl recipes are delicious.  Of course, you can use chicken or lamb instead if you like, I just happened to have some turkey in the fridge.

I always rinse and soak my lentils before cooking – it makes cooking easier and quicker, and it’s probably a throwover from watching my didi cook.

If you’re wondering where to buy lentils, and are a bit worried about what to do with them – your local Indian grocery shop will have them or Asian supermarket, and probably even a normal supermarket.   The latest lot I bought were from M&S.  And if you’re a bit worried about how to cook them, these are perfect easy recipes.  You really can’t go wrong with them.  For your basic lentil store cupboard needs I’d go with some red split lentils or masoor dahl, some chana dahl or yellow split peas and some puy lentils, for when you’re not doing Indian, but doing something vaguely French or Italian instead.

Both want yellow split peas or chana dahl.  And the second combines the chana dahl with masoor dahl.  But really, combine it with whatever you have – I used a mix of black and green lentils.  What really makes these recipes are the spices.  Both are full of lots of wonderful spice flavours.  Don’t worry if you don’t have them all – just substitute with something else.

This first recipe is a slight fusion recipe because it uses chicken stock and wine to cook the lentils in, rather than water, which is more traditional for Indian food.  The second is slightly more fiddly because it’s a tarka dahl and you fry some spices together and chuck it over the dahl at the end, but have no fear, it’s very simple.

Indian fusion turkey dahl

Serves 4

2 tbsp oil

1 red onion finely sliced

2 peppers (I used green) roughly chopped

1 clove of garlic finely chopped

2 red chillis (deseeded if you don’t want too hot), finely chopped

1 tsp mustard seeds

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp ground chilli powder

120ml white wine

600ml chicken stock

225g chana dahl or split peas

350g diced turkey

  1. Rinse and soak the lentils
  2. Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onion until beginning to brown.  Then and the garlic, chili, dry spices and peppers and fry for a further minute.
  3. Add the turkey and fry to coat in the spices and browned on the outside.
  4. Add the dahl to the pan and fry to coat the lentils in the oil, for about a minute.  Then add the wine and let it bubble and reduce.
  5. Then add the chicken stock, bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer slowly until the stock is absorbed and the lentils are cooked for about 30-40 minutes.   Add more water if necessary.  Check on the pan occasionally to ensure the lentils aren’t sticking to the bottom
  6. Serve with chappatis or plain rice, and let the heady scent of the spices warm up your Autumn night.

This next recipe is spicier than the first.  In fact, if you want to keep the first quite mild, just remove the fresh chillis all together, and only use the dried ground chilli powder.  But the point of the second recipe is to be quite spicy, and is great if you have a cold – it really clears your nose and sinuses out!

Turkey tarka dahl

Serves 4

40g chana dahl (yellow split peas)

50g masoor dahl (red split lentils)

1 tbsp oil

2 medium onions finely chopped

1 tsp garlic pulp (I use garlic you get in a tube ready pulped)

1 tsp grated ginger

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1.5 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1.5 tsp salt

200g diced turkey meat

handful of fresh coriander, chopped

2 green chillis (de seeded if you want it milder) and chopped

2-3 tbsp lemon juice

300ml water

2 tomatoes, quartered

For the tarka

1 tsp oil

1/5 tsp cumin seeds

2 whole garlic cloves

2 dried whole chillis

4 curry leaves (use 2 bay leaves if you don’t have curry leaves.  Curry leaves can be bought in Asian supermarkets)

  1. Rinse and soak the lentils.  Then boil them in some water until soft and mushy.  Then set aside til later
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a saucepan or wok.  Fry the onions until soft and browned.
  3. Then add the garlic, ginger and dried spices.  Fry for a minute until the spices perfume the air.
  4. Then add the turkey and fry to coat in the spices and brown on the outside, for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add half the fresh coriander, fresh chillis, lemon juice and water and cook for 3-5 minutes.
  6. Next add in the cooked dahls and the tomatoes.  Cook for a further couple of minutes.
  7. Add the remaining coriander, stir well and remove from the heat.
  8. To make the tarka, heat the oil in a pan, when it’s hot add all the spices and fry on a high heat for about 30 seconds, then pour over the dahl and serve with plain rice immediately.
  9. Eat and feel your head clearing immediately.
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