Winter warmer Punjabi Dal

Mallika Basu - Winter warmer Punjabi Dal

Posted 13th January 2014

Happy New Year to you all!

Festive fever has well and truly ended. Not before we had 9 adults, 2 toddlers, 1 baby and 2 dogs for Christmas. And a dog splattered bodily fluids on mini Basu’s glitter party shoes.

Fittingly, this turn of the year’s celebrations have been low key. Where else to end the shenanigans of the year but a cottage on a sheep farm in the middle of nowhere? The kids were not convinced. I want to go in an earoplane, was followed quickly by, I want to go in a swimming pool.

The promise of a tractor did the trick. We hardened city dwellers would now embrace mud, yuck and woodlands with zeal. We bundled the kids, a nifty selection of toys, a bottle of Rose Taittinger, and my best country wear into the boot. If we were going to enjoy the delights of the country, we would do it well. A staycation in style.

Style is not what came to mind as we drove towards our destination. Tucked away at the top of a winding mud path was our cottage on a farm featuring not just sheep, but horses, chickens and trout. Through gritted teeth I agreed on  a walk through the woods. Who cares that the path was knee deep in mud, and a biting wind was about to deep freeze my bones.

At least we were dressed for the occasion. Or so I thought. The farmer came running towards us as I prepared to leap over a fence. I like your wellies, she said, pointing squarely at their wedge heels. [You think Wedge Wellies would be commonplace in these parts.] Before I could jump to my defence, she added, you won’t need your handbag in the woods dear.

A little more sheepish than we had started, we braved the fine outdoors getting cosy later with a warming, thick and vegan Spicy Punjabi Dal that caught my eye from Monica’s Spice Diary. This is the perfect dal for the Arctic blast, and ideal used as a dunking base for chunks of bread, ripped up pitta or warm rotis of course. And what better way to start a year of eating than a clear head and a warm heart?

Here’s to a fantastic year ahead.

Feeds 4:

1/2 cup split urad lentils

1/2 cup channa lentils (split bengal gram)

1 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp cumin seeds

Pinch of asafoetida (hing)

1 onion, finely chopped

2inch ginger, peeled and grated

2 cloves garlic, peeled and grated

1 green chilli, finely chopped

2 plum tomatoes plus 3 tbsp juice (from tin)

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp paprika

Handful fresh coriander

Salt to taste

3 tbsp oil (or ghee, if you prefer a non vegan version)

Soak the lentils in cold water overnight. I did this first thing in the morning for the lentils to be swollen and ready to go by evening.

Drain and rinse the lentils, and bring them to boil in 5-6 cups of cold water. The quickest way to do this is to keep bubbling on high for a good 20 minutes – half an hour. Add hot water from a kettle if the lentils start drying up or getting stuck to the bottom of the pan. You want to get the consistency of a thick, textured soup with squished up lentils.

While the dal is bubbling away, make the tadka. Bring the oil or ghee to heat on medium high. When it’s hot, toss in the asafoetida and cumin seeds, and as they sizzle up, stir in the onions along with a pinch of salt. This will help caramelise the onions. In 5 minutes, when the onions are golden, add the ginger, garlic and chilli. Saute the whole lot for another minute and then stir in the tomato, garam masala, turmeric and paprika.

Cook this for a minute or two on a medium heat, then stir into the dal with the fresh coriander. Give the dal one last boil and then take off the heat. If the dal is too dry, and missing it’s soup-like texture, then pour in a cup of hot water. Add salt to your taste and enjoy your Punjabi Dal hot.

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