Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Dhal , Pilau.  Pilau, Dhal.

I learned two things while creating this meal and this post.  One:  Indian food is really quite difficult to make pretty in photographs, and especially in unnatural lighting.  Oh!  For the day when my kitchen will be bright and sunny!  And Two:  Indian food is, at the same time, both very simple and quite complicated, and choosing to photograph every step of it's development only seems to double the complexity of the situation.

But don't worry friends, it all worked out in the end, I didn't burn a thing and we have satisfied bellies.

So we're having Indian Pilau and green lentil dhal for supper.  Mmmmm!  I came across both basic recipes for these dishes ages ago, but tweaked them according to my tastes which means, really, that I pretty much doubled the amount of each of the herbs, seeds and spices called for in the original recipes.  

As I stated earlier, Indian food is both simple and complicated.  Simple in that many dishes only have a few food ingredients - for example, the rice only has basmati, onions and garlic.  But then there is most often a list of seasonings half a mile long, and sometimes a very particular order in which everything is added.  The thing is, once you have done a dish a few times, you can prep it in a way that will make things go more smoothly for you. Having everything ready ahead of time makes all the difference. 

So here we go!  First I worked on the dhal since it takes the longest to cook. Here are the guts:

1.5 cups dry green lentils, 1" minced ginger, 1 tbsp garam masala, 2 minced bird's eye chilies, 2 small minced white onions.  Butter, brown sugar, 2 tbsp cumin seeds, 5 crushed garlic cloves.
1.5 tsp tumeric, sea salt.

So I used about a cup and a half of lentils.  Start by boiling them in a few cups of water - though keep an eye on them because they are thirsty little buggers and you'll need to keep adding water 
throughout - and once boiled, add the tumeric.  

Stir it in well and lower the heat until it remains at a slow boil.  In the meantime, in a non stick frying pan, melt some butter, wait until it's just starting to sizzle and toss in the cumin seeds.  Stir them around until they're coated in butter and you can start to smell their lovely smell.

Toss in the onions, sprinkle the salt over them and stir them into the butter too.

Fry the onions until they are soft and then add the ginger, garlic and chillies.

Cook them until they're tender as well, and the room smells like heaven.  Then add them and the garam masala (about 1 tbsp, but add to taste) to the lentils.

Stir it all together and lower the heat. Add the brown sugar.

The consistency of dhal is really personal preference.  I've had dhal that is very thin and liquidy, like a soup, and some that is very thick, like mashed potatoes.  I like mine kind of in between.  Once your  desired consistency is achieved, taste the dhal and season it to you liking with salt and if you want, pepper.

While the dhal was cooking, I got the pilau on the go, since it doesn't take as long.

I soaked a cup and a half of basmati while I was getting the dhal ready.  Otherwise you need:

1 small minced onion, 1.5 cups basmati, veggie broth.
2 tsp fennel seeds, 12 black peppercorns, 1.5 tbsp sunflower seeds, 1.5 tsp tumeric, 2 tsp cumin,
1 tsp sea salt, four cloves, 8 cardamom pods, gently crushed, 6 garlic cloves, crushed.

At this juncture, I would like to point out that the sunflower seeds were an emergency substitute for the sesame seeds I forgot we'd run out of, and that I wouldn't use the sunflowers seeds again, in fact I'd forego a substitute entirely because the sesame seeds are so good in here!  I use 2tbsp.

The cool thing about this recipe, other than it's deliciousness, is that all the seeds and spices go in at once, so you can gather them all together in a little bowl, quick and tidy, for when you need them.

First things first.  Put some veggie oil (doesn't matter what type, just needs to have a high heat tolerance) in a pan, heat it on medium to high and throw in the onions and garlic.  Sautee them until they have released their fragrance, and turn the heat down a little and cook until they are soft, stirring so they don't stick.  Then add all the seasoning.

Stir it all together evenly and cook for a few minutes, until the smell makes you drool.  It will, trust me. If you find the mixture too dry, add tiny bits of your veggie broth until the spices are well dispersed.  

Drain your soaked rice and add it to your mixture.  Toss it all together well and add your veggie broth, about 3 cups.  

Then all you have to do is wait for the liquid to be absorbed, give it a stir and serve it up!!

I served naan bread with mine because I like to use it to scoop up the dhal.  

Though the process takes quite a while on account of all the cooking the lentils require, and is quite involved on account of all the different seasonings, this meal has become one of mine and BF's faves.  I've done it quite a few times now and I'm getting quicker and quicker!  Hope you like it too!

Till next time!

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