Jenna’s glorious coconut dhal

Jenna was an East African Asian, of Indian descent, who moved to the UK from Uganda, fleeing the bloody dictatorship of the violent dictator Idi Amin. ‘Tender and feisty’ she was, says her daughter, lovingly. I wish I had known Jenna. I hadn’t, but I got to know her through her daughter’s book, her memoir in food.  In Settlers’ Cookbook, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown tells so wonderfully her mother’s story, intertwined with her own, and which forms a part of her people’s history.

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“Our family tree is puny, barren in large part. The roots don’t go down deep enough to produce a plenteous crop of ancestral stories or fruity relatives. The few memories hanging on are losing colour and juice, soon will wither and fall away.

The human urge to trace long, biological bloodlines is strong. But our far past was swept away by careless fate impetuously carrying off my folk across the seas, away, away to new beginnings. They took little and left behind even less. Like many other East African Asians whose forbears left India in the nineteenth century, I search endlessly for (and sometimes find) the remains of those days. Few maps mark routes of journeys undertaken by these migrants; hardly any books capture their spirit or tell the story. Then Africa disgorged us too, and here we are, people in motion, now in the West, the next stopover. There is no place on earth we can historically and unequivocally claim to be ours, and so we have become adept wayfarers who settle but cautiously, ready to move on if the winds change.”

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Every recipe in the book is interwoven in the fabric of Yasmin’s Jenna’s life, or the life of their people.

Jenna’s coconut dhal has become a favourite in my home.

This post has been long in making, I’m sorry to say. Hope you enjoy the recipe as much as I do.

 

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This is one recipe where mise en place is not necessarily essential.

 Jenna's coconut dhal

 

Jenna’s Coconut Dhal

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SOURCE:  Adapted from Yasmin Alibhai-Brown’s ‘Settlers’ Cookbook’, her mother’s recipe

PREPARATION TIME: about 5 min

COOKING TIME: 1 h 5 min

CUISINE: Indian (Ugandan Asian)

SERVES: A crowd!

 

 

2/3 mug channa dhal

2/3 mug red lentils (masoor dhal)

2/3 mug moong dhal (split and hulled)

water

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 1/2 tbsp oil

1 1/2 tsp cumin seeds

8 green chillies, sliced (deseed if you wish, or reduce number of chillies)

1 1/2 tin tomatoes

1 tsp turmeric

3 cloves of garlic, minced

2 handfuls of coriander leaves, chopped

Juice of 1 lime
Salt to taste

A pinch of jaggery (or brown sugar)

3/4 tin of good-quality coconut milk

 

 

METHOD:

1. Wash the channa dhal until the water runs clear. Then wash the mung and masoor dhals together.

2. Boil channa dhal for about 10 minutes, then add the mung and massor dhals, turmeric and more water, and continue cooking until the munch and masoor dhals are soft and mushy, and the channa dhal is soft. This will take about an hour in total.

3. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan, then add the cumin seeds, garlic and green chillies and cook until the garlic turns golden. Then add the tomatoes, the remaining 1 tsp of turmeric salt, and sugar. Cook until the oil separates, and then add chopped coriander, and cook for another 5 – 10 min.

4. When the dhal is cooked, add coconut milk to it, cook for about 5 min, and then add the tomato mixture. Cook for another 5 min to combine, and then finish off with lime juice, a pinch more of sugar, and some more salt to taste. I like my dhal rather thick, but do add some water if you’d like it soupier.

 

Serve with rice, or bread, as a part of an Indian meal or for a simple lunch or dinner. It’s delicious either way.

Andrea’s Gorgeous Tarka Dhal – The Recipe

Andrea has got a great blog, and what’s more, she’s a great girl! If you can read Croatian, do head over to her blog Voce & povrce and start reading now! If not, well heck, how about learning Croatian? 🙂

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This is the her dhal that I raved about in my previous post. It’s not just that I’ve never met a red lentil dish I didn’t like. It’s not that I’m being subjective here. Oh no! This is really and truly delicious! I love the double dose of cumin in the tarka, seeds and powder, the scent of turmeric, and the lusciousness of the tomato and onion sauce. I love how well it goes with the lentils, and oh the simplicity of it all! It doesn’t take too long to cook, either. Red lentils take about 30 – 35 min (OK, longer if they’re older! like any lentils really), and during that time, you can prep and cook the tarka.

I stuck pretty much to Andrea’s recipe, making minor changes: using ghee instead of oil and black instead of yellow mustard seeds. I also changed the cooking method slightly, in that I cooked my onions until golden, and my tarka for a bit longer, because this is the way a Punjabi friend taught me. 

 

 

 

 

 

Tarka Dhal

 

SOURCEAndrea

PREPARATION TIME: about 5 – 10 min

COOKING TIME: 30 – 40 min

CUISINE: Indian

SERVES: 2

INGREDIENTS:

200 g split red lentils (masoor dhal)

600 ml water

1 large tomato (or 2 – 3 tinned plum tomatoes)

50 g onion

2 red chillies

1/2 tsp mustard seeds (I used black mustard seeds)

1/2 tsp cumin

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

2 tbsp oil (or ghee)

salt to taste

METHOD:

1. Rinse the lentils a few times, until the rinsing water runs clear.

2. Transfer the lentils in a thick-bottomed pan, add the water and cookon medium to high heat until boiling.

3. Skim off the foam that gathers on top as the lentils start boiling, and then lower the heat and continue cooking until  the lentils soften. Stir occasionally.

4. While the lentils are cooking, start making the tarka. Chop the onions, tomatoes, and chillies (removing the seeds if you prefer less heat). I like a bit of texture in my dhal, so I simply sliced the chillies into rounds, and chopped the onions not too finely.

5. Heat the oil on medium to high heat in a small pan, and when bubbling, add the cumin and mustard seeds. When the cumin becomes fragrant, and the mustard seeds start popping, add the onion and chillies, and cook until the onions become golden.

6. Add the turmeric and cumin powder, and stir for a few seconds. Again, until the spices are fragrant. Not for too long, or else the spice might burn. Trust your nose. You’ll learn soon, if you haven’t already. (‘ve grown to love the smell of turmeric frying!)

7. In go the tomatoes! Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture gets glossy, which is a sign that the oil is starting to separate, and that your tarka is done! This will take about 10 minutes or more, depending on how watery your tomatoes are. You can, of course, cook it for less, but it tastes better, richer, this way.

8. Add you tarka into the lentils and stir through. It’s often nice to reserve a bit of tarka and use it as a topping when serving the dhal. Put in a pinch of salt or two, to taste. I like my dhal thick, but if you don’t add a bit more water. Likewise, if you find it too watery, simply boil the lentils for a bit longer with a lid of. I guess it’s better if you keep an eye on the lentils as they’re cooking, rather than having to do this at the end. I should have told you that earlier, sorry!

Serve with rice or bread (chappati, naan, or any bread really), or as a part of an Indian (or other) meal. Enjoy!

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More dhals from this blog:

Bengali Red Dhal

Minty dhal (2 versions of the recipe)

Punjabi Green Lentil Dhal

Sri Lankan Coconut Dhal

 

Also:

More recipes with beans and lentils

More Indian recipes

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I’m submitting this post to the February MLLA (My Legume Love Affair), hosted by Rachel, the Crispy Cook. The event was started by legume-loving Susan, The Well Seasoned Cook.

Andrea’s Tarka Dhal

fbi rukavice

When I first started blogging, I didn’t know many blogs from former Yugoslavia. Now there are loads! FBI Rukavice stands for Food Blog Inspection, and ‘Rukavice’ (meaning ‘gloves’) is anagram of ‘kuvarice’ (or ‘cooks’). The event was started by mamajac, and it does exactly what it says ‘on the tin’ – it inspects, or investigates, one food blog a month! This month, Andrea’s beautiful blog Voće i povrće (or ‘Fruit and veg’) is under inspection! I had to take part! Andrea writes in Croatian, and I love her blog because of her recipes, photos and especially her writing. We share love of Indian cooking, so it was natural that I choose her Tarka Dhal as a first thing to try. I say first thing, as I’ve bookmarked many more!

I absolutely loved the dhal! It’s earthy flavours, it’s double dose of cumin (seeds and powder). Even the Great Carnivore (aka husband) adored it! Hvala Andrea! (Thank you!)

I’m going away for work and have to get up at 6 am tomorrow, so for now, here’s just the pic, and I’ll post the recipe in a few days in English.

 

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Coconut Lamb Curry

Here is a really special Indian dish that I wanted to share with you in a long time. I’m sharing it now, to celebrate my return! It’s like a kind of Indian-style rendang: moist morsels of lamb coated in thick meaty sauce and coconut. It is deeeelicious! So flavoursome, and such fun to eat. I love the lamb pieces wrapped in roti, or with some other nice bread. In any case, you’ve got to eat this with your hands!

This curry is based on a recipe by Anjum Anand from her Indian Food Made Easy BBC series. I changed (upped) the spicing to suit my tastes, and added a South-Indian touch with curry leaves, dried red chillies and mustard seeds. Basically, the lamb is cooked with spices until the meat is tender, and the sauce is well reduced. Then, you sprinkle toasted grated coconut in (fresh or desiccated), and coat the lamb. Yes, it takes time to cook it, but it requires little attention, and it’s really worth it. The first time I made it, I totally forgot about it and spent 2 hours on the phone to a friend, but miraculously, it didn’t burn, and it didn’t harm it all. Next time I was more careful, but it was equally good.

Our camera issues haven’t been resolved yet, so no pics this time, sorry. We’re in a long and slow process of choosing a new camera. Possibly, hopefully, a DSLR!

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Coconut Lamb Curry

 

SOURCE:  Based on a recipe from Anjum Anad’s Indian Food Made Easy

PREPARATION TIME: about 5 min

COOKING TIME: about 2 h 40 min

CUISINE: Indian

SERVES: 4 as a side dish, or 2 – 3 as a main

 

INGREDIENTS:

50 g desiccated coconut

2 tbsp ghee

3 dried red chillies

2 – 3 sprigs of fresh curry leaves

a pinch of black mustard seeds

1 onion, peeled and finely chopped

2 cm ginger, grated

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1/3 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes

salt to taste

500 g boneless lamb, diced

200 g water

1/2 tsp garam masala

 

METHOD:

I. Toast the desiccated coconut in a non-stick pan until a little past golden, and set a side. This will take a minute or two, so watch it!

II. 1. Heat the oil in a wide pan (I love to use my wide and shallow Le Creuset pan, but any thick-bottomed pan will do, with good non-stick properties if possible.). You’ll know it’s hot enough when you put a spoon in it and it starts sizzling. Then add the dried chilies, mustard seeds and curry leaves. When the mustard seeds start to pop, put the lid on. When they stop, add the onions and cook them until they start going golden. Next, add the ginger and garlic, and then cook the mixture until onions are well browned.

2. Now add the chilli powder and turmeric. Stir, and add the tomatoes and salt. Cook this until the oil starts oozing out, separating from the tomato and onion mixture, glossy and beautiful.

3. Now you’re ready to add the meat. Brown the meat in the pan with the onion mixture for a few minutes, add water, and bring to boil. Then cover and simmer on a low heat for about 50 min, or until the lamb is tender. I love to cook it even longer, until it’s melt-in-the-mouth soft. Check the lamb occasionally and add more water if it starts sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the lamb is done, uncover and continue cooking, stirring often, until any excess water has evaporated.

4. When there is only a bit of liquid left coating the lamb, sprinkle in the garam masala, check the seasoning, and then stir in the coconut. Serve with roti or some other nice bread, with a few veg side dishes if you want. Enjoy every morsel! And let me know how you got on.

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Digg This

Punjabi green lentil dhal – incredibly easy and incredibly tasty

Spice box

About two years ago, or perhaps a bit less, when I first started cooking Indian food, a very kind and generous British lady of Punjabi origin invited me to her home for what she jokingly called ‘a curry lesson’. I watched wide-eyed and scared. In awe of all the spice jars and containers dancing in front of my very own eyes. At a time, I knew and recognised a lot of them and had them in my own kitchen, but had precious little clue on what to do with them, if truth be told. That day was a turning point in my cooking in general for several reasons. The first, and perhaps the most important lesson, was to relax. Before, I was confused with all these spices, and scared I’m doing things wrongly. Watching her cook was amazing. She was instinctive, creative, spontaneous. ‘Shall we add a bit of this?… And what do you think that will taste?… I think I’ll do this….’ I relaxed in my mind, and in my attitude towards Indian food; I wasn’t ‘scared’ anymore and started trying things out. This is when the second lesson kicked in: trying things out, and getting to know my ingredients. See how it goes, and learn. Smell and taste. Learn which flavours go together, experiment. Watch what is happening at every stage. Feel and touch. Get involved with your food. See what it feels like at each stage. (Of course, this works with certain foods only.) I truly learnt only by trying and following my instincts. And then remembering and/or writing down what I’d done. And than doing it again.

If you recognise yourself in any of the above, maybe I could help you see that cooking Indian food doesn’t have to be daunting and complicated. Let’s have a look at this very simple Punjabi dhal. Simple in flavour, and simple in technique, but uncompromisingly delicious. Green lentils are simply cooked with turmeric, and then seasoned with a tarka of cumin seeds,fried onions (until brown), ginger and garlic, and then finished off with some garam masala.

Tarka is an Indian technique of frying spices in ghee or oil, sometimes with the addition of some combination of onions, garlic and chillies. This is done either at the beginning of cooking, or at the end. For more information, see Barbara’s post Teaching Tarka. If lentils are its body, tarka is the life and soul of the dhal. The tarka as a final flavouring gives it a character that makes it different from any other of its kind made with same lentils. It defines its origin as Punjabi like this one (with ghee, cumin and onions), South Indian (flavoured with curry leaves, mustard seeds and red chillies) or Bengali (with panch phoron, the characteristically Bengali five spice mix.)

Turmeric

Do try and make this, and when you do, smell the turmeric cooking with the lentils. Take a bit of lentils with a spoon and feel them with your fingertips. See how they feel on your tongue, between your teeth. Follow how they change in texture and flavour. When you’re making the tarka, watch for the bubbles around your wooden spoon that will tell you when the oil or ghee are hot enough for the cumin seeds to go in. When the cumin is in, watch how it sizzles and changes colour. Smell it. Don’t let it burn – things happen quickly with some spices. Now the onions. Watch them loose liquid, and then change colour from translucent, to golden through to reddish and then brown. How sweet they smell, how moreish they become. (See my post ‘Cooking Indian: How to Fry Onions’.)

Green lentils b&w

I adapted this recipe from Vicky Bhogal’s book ‘Cooking Like Mummyji’. I added a teaspoon of cumin seed at the beginning of the onion tadka, upped the chilli and garlic, and reduced the amount of garam masala. The latter is up to you and your tastes, but for me the cumin makes all the difference, and I urge you to try it. I really love the warming aroma of cumin seeds popped in ghee or oil in this dhal. At a pinch, you can use ground cumin if you don’t have cumin seeds, but please add it after the onions are browned (and not at the beginning, before the onions, because it will burn). The flavour is slightly different, but it will add the important cumin note to the dish.

Another change, a little unorthodox for Punjabi cooking perhaps, is that I added a pinch of sugar to the cooked lentils, like they do in Bengal. I find that the sugar round off the flavours really nicely, and mellows the dish.

Vicky calls the recipe ‘whole lentils cooked in a pressure cooker’. I didn’t cook them like that, so that doesn’t apply to me. Plus I find this title a bit too generic, so I’m changing the name to ‘Punjabi green lentils with deep brown onions and garam masala’.

Green lentils

I’ve made this dish a few times, and it’s always been a hit with Someone I Know And Love.  It goes really well with a dollop of yoghurt, some kale aloo, and chapatti. I have just made Anita’s garam masala, and can’t wait to cook this dhal again with it!

Someone I Know And Love has gone off for two weeks and taken our camera with him. No photos, but I will try to get a friend to exchange her photographic skills for some nosh.

This post is going to the wonderful Lisa for the event No Croutons Required. This month, we’re focusing on Indian soups and salads. Right up my street! I can’t wait to see the round-up.

 

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Punjabi green lentils with deep

brown onions and garam masala

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SOURCE:  adapted from Vicky Bhogal’s ‘Cooking Like Mummyji’

PREPARATION TIME: about 5 min

COOKING TIME: about 40 min

CUISINE: Indian, Punjabi

SERVES: 4 as a side dish, or 2 – 3 as a main

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup whole green lentils

1 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)

a small pinch of brown sugar (optional)

1 tbsp ghee / vegetable oil

1 heaped tsp of cumin seeds

1 small yellow onion, sliced thinly (or chopped finely, if you wish)

2 cloves of garlic

1 tsp grated fresh ginger

2 – 3 birds eye green chillies, sliced

1/4 tsp Punjabi garam masala

chopped coriander for garnish (optional)

METHOD:

1. Put the lentils into a pan with 2 cups of water (for now, you might need more later if you want it runnier). Let it boil, and skim the scum from the top. Now add turmeric, and continue cooking until soft. When the lentils are soft, add the salt. Add a pinch of sugar if you want now. Add some warm water if you like your lentils less thick or even soupy. (Vicky leaves her lentils whole, but I like to mash some of them up to make the dish creamier.)

2. To make the tarka, first pop the cumin seeds in some hot ghee. First, heat the ghee or oil (it’s hot enough when it starts sizzling when you insert a wooden spoon in it), and then add the cumin. Fry for a few seconds, until the cumin releases its fragrance (watch out, it burns quickly). Then, add the onion, sprinkle it with salt, and fry until golden brown. Now add the chillies, ginger and garlic, and fry for some more, until they soften and loose their raw flavour. If the ginger starts sticking to the pan, add a little water and scrape off. (I usually chop the onion first, then while they’re frying, prepare garlic, ginger and chillies, and add it as I go.)

3. Pour the onion mixture into the dhal and stir through, leaving some tarka on top. Now add the garam masala.

4. Garnish with coriander if using, and serve with some chapattis or rice.

Enjoy!  

More dhals from this blog:

Bengali Red Dhal

Minty dhal (2 versions of  recipe)

Sri Lankan Coconut Dhal

Also:

More recipes with beans and lentils

 

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