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Having worked our way through many of Madhur Jaffrey’s recipes, the arrival of Camelia Panjabi’s “50 Great Curries of India” was well-timed. We’re currently employing a one-in-one-out policy when it comes to cookery books and since I find it so difficult to part with any books at all, especially cookery books, we haven’t bought anything new for a while.
Additionally, we tend to find a lot of inspiration and recipes online so the purchase of yet more books we don’t really use seems doubly futile. This book was leant to us by a friend of Stephen’s and as I read through the opening chapters in bed one night last week, I remembered just how much more pleasurable it is to read through a book than open a web browser.
The introductory sections of this book are very detailed and give both a history of regional Indian cooking and a useful guide on how to put together a curry; what I’ve found most useful so far is the information on how to select spices for their flavour and/or aroma and for their colour. Also interesting is the importance of cooking spices for varying amounts of time, a distinctly different approach to my “throw-it-all-in style.
As I read, I remembered the bag of chana dal sitting unopened in our cupboard and made a mental note to cook it at some point soon. Feeling a little delicate after Octopus-gate, the meat-free nature of this dish was instantly appealing so I got on with it early this morning giving it plenty of time for the flavours to develop before we ate it.
What surprised me most about this was just how much flavour there was given the relatively short ingredient list. Obviously, some of those ingredients have strong flavours but I’ve struggled at times to produce an Indian dish that’s rounded and deep in flavour, which this definitely was. I may just have to have another look at those book shelves and see if there is anything I can part with to make way for this book.
250g chana dal
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1cm piece of ginger, chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
1 bay leaf (or cinnamon leaf if you can get it)
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
3/4 teaspoon red chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 tomato, chopped
Pinch of asofoetida
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
Wash the dal and soak for 20 minutes. Drain and add to a saucepan with 500ml water, cook for 20 minutes.
Sautee the garlic, ginger, chilli and bay leaf for two minutes. Add the cumin, chilli powder and turmeric and stir well. Add the tomato and continue to stir for a further two minutes.
Add this mixture to the dal and add the asofoetida. Bring to the boil and cook until the grains are soft but retain some shape (about 1 hour). Add the coriander and serve.