Moong Dal and a Secret Sri Lankan Gem

IMG_9210

 

My husband calls me a ‘cheap date’.

Why, you ask?

Well, if the truth be told I would far rather go to a restaurant that is probably unlikely to win any prizes for decor but the food is outstanding moreish and tasty, the kind of places that people who really love food and flavour go, rather than going to places purely to be ‘seen’. These places don’t cost an earth to be fed well – hence the ‘cheap date’ label. A couple of years ago I spoke about a wonderful little place up the Edgware road – see here 

IMG_9233

Don’t get me wrong I can also be a bit of a chameleon and like places that do have great decor, great food and are perhaps a little bit more expensive, but not crazily so – Mr B and I recently visited Bill Granger’s new restaurant, aptly names ‘Grangers’ in Clerkenwell and managed to chat to the man himself – very down to earth and charming. The restaurant ticks all my boxes – great food, ambiance, relaxed atmosphere and not going to break the bank.

IMG_9245

But over in Tooting there is a little Sri Lankan/South Indian restaurant called ‘Apollo Banana Leaf’ that’s a great find for all you spice lovers out there. Friend’s north of the river had mentioned it to us a while ago and spoke about how they made the trip especially to visit this restaurant. It had me thinking, friends making the effort to go to deepest, darkest Tooting – well it must be good!

Mr B and I have been a couple of times at lunch time and feasted on some wonderful Sri Lankan and South Indian food. Each time we are the only diners, but stuck to the window there are endless ‘Time Out‘ and ‘Harden’s reviews. I imagine in the evenings the restaurant is jam packed, but in the day time it feels like private dining.

IMG_9241

 

Their dal was warming and subtly spiced and keen to replicate it at home Mr B and I tried to work out what they had put in it. Hing – or rather asafoetida was definitely in it coming from the aromas of the dish and then we could see dried chillies, fresh curry leaves, black mustard seeds, and of course turmeric to give it it’s sunshine yellow colour. On close inspection of the menu I realised there was a little onion and fresh ginger in it, however I’ve been cooking it at home without the latter two ingredients. Try it yourself both ways and see which works for you.

It’s the perfect little dish to cook after a long day at work and you want some food that will give you the equivalent of a great big hug.

If you fancy a spice injection head on down to 190 Tooting High Street. I may well see you there for lunch.

 

IMG_9227

 

Moong Dal – Sri Lankan Style

Serves 6-8

450g  moong dal, cleaned

900ml cold water

1 tbsp vegetable oil

6 fresh curry leaves

1-2 tsp black mustard seeds

3 large dried red chillies

1/2 (half) tsp  asafoetida/hing

1 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp salt

******

1. Thoroughly wash the moong dal in a pan of cold water, using your hands. Carefully empty the water from the pan and repeat a couple of times so that the water runs clear.

2. Add 900ml of cold water to the pan holding the moong dal and bring to the boil and then let simmer for around 20-30 minutes. During this time white froth will form at the top of the pan. Using a large spoon skim off the froth that forms and discard. You may find that you require a little more cold water if it has all been soaked up, so just add a little, depending on how soupy you like your dal. When the dal is done it will be slightly lighter in colour and will will be soft to touch – be careful not to allow it to become too mushy through overcooking.

3. In a small pan heat up the oil on a low heat. When it is hot add the black mustard seeds. These will begin to pop almost immediately so be careful. Add the rest of the ingredients and move around the pan for 30 seconds.

4. Take a spoonful of the dal and place in the pan with the spices. Mix together and then pour all the contents of the spice pan into the other pan holding the dal. Place a small bit of water in the spice pan and swirl around so that all the spices are removed from the pan and put into the dal pan.

5. Stir in thoroughly to the dal and simmer for a couple of minutes. If it requires more salt then add a little more at this final stage.  Leave to cool slightly before serving.

 


Indian Toor Dal – one of my absolute favourites

IMG_7774

After the excesses of weekend feasting Monday nights in my household are vegetarian and usually include a dal of some sorts. This past weekend has been a whirl of celebration with my eldest daughter’s birthday sleepover followed by a large family lunch to celebrate, as well as squeezing in a celebration dinner in honour of our talented artist friend, Adele Henderson (you heard it hear first folks) who was displaying some of her charcoal paintings at the prestigious Mall Galleries in London.

IMG_7780

Like soups, which I am a huge fan of, dal is the ultimate homely and warming comfort food. There are hundreds of varieties from all over India, Pakistan and Bangladesh and each week I try and cook a different one from the week before. Some require soaking, and others you can cook straight away. This week I have used toor dal (similar looking but smaller in size to channa dal), which I try to soak if I have the time (either overnight if you are very organized or simply for 20 mins). This simply makes the cooking time quicker, but is not essential to the cooking process. My usual routine is to soak the lentils on Sunday night and then to cook the dal on Monday morning. The whole cooking and preparation time takes no longer than 45 minutes (if you have not soaked and less if you have) so can easily be done prior to leaving the house, or returning later in the day.

This dal contains some wonderful flavours that work so well together. Asafoetida, or hing as it is also known, should be used with caution as it has a pungent smell, but adding a good pinch really adds a depth of flavour, which keeps you coming back for more. If you can use fresh curry leaves then use them, otherwise dried is fine. Fresh curry leaves are wonderfully fragrant and again really add great flavours to the dish. Then there is the sweet and sourness from the tamarind. I tend to opt for concentrate as it is easier to come by in regular grocery shops, however if you have some tamarind you can soak it and then strain it and add the tamarind pulp that is strained through the sieve.

IMG_7739

I tend to cook a generous amount of dal so that I can hopefully have some leftover to eat on Tuesday along with a fish curry; one less thing to prepare is always a bonus.

IMG_7742

Indian Toor Dal

400g toor dal

3 tbsp vegetable/sunflower oil

1 tsp of fenugreek/methi seeds

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp black mustard seeds

10 fresh curry leaves

2 inches fresh ginger, finely grated/chopped

a good pinch asafoetida/hing powder

2 small chillies, chopped into three

2 tomatoes, chopped

1/2 tsp chilli powder

2 tsp turmeric powder

1 tsp tamarind concentrate

100ml water

2 tsp salt

1. Soak the toor dal in a bowl of water for 20 minutes or overnight if you are well organized. This simply makes the cooking time a little quicker but is not essential (unlike some lentils which you have to soak over night – red kidney beans and green mung beans for example). Make sure the water is sufficiently above the level of the dal. You rinse it through after so the exact amount is irrelevant.

2. Once the 20 minutes soaking are up, rinse the dal through a sieve and place in a large pan and cover with boiling water. This time the water should only be a little bit above the dal.  Gently cook the dal so that it softens, this will take around 20-35minutes (more of you have not soaked). You may need to add more water if it gets soaked up whilst softening. It’s not an exact science so don’t worry too much on water amounts – sometimes I have it more ‘soupy’ in consistency than others. Remove the scum from the top of the pan, which occurs when  cooking the dal.  When it has softened, leave to rest whilst you finish off preparing the rest of the ingredients. To test it has softened squeeze a lentil between your thumb and forefinger. If it soft it is ready for the next stage, however, if the lentil remains hard you will need to boil it a little longer.

3. In a large karahi or frying pan heat up the oil and then add the fenugreek/methi, cumin and black mustard seeds. They will begin to pop so make sure you keep the heat low. Move them around the pan for 30 seconds before adding the curry leaves and give a good stir.

3. After three minutes cooking time add the chillies, fresh tomatoes and asafoetida/hing,  fresh ginger, chilli powder and turmeric and mix in well together.

4. Once the tomatoes have softened – this will take a few minutes, add the tamarind concentrate and water and stir.  You now want to deposit the pan with the toor dal into your karahi/frying pan with the other ingredients, or vice versa, depending on which pan is larger.  Stir in well together and add a little extra boiling water to clean the pan and then turn that water into the main pan.

5. Add the salt to taste and leave to simmer for a further 5 minutes.

Serve with rice or Indian bread or simply on its own. I often like to squeeze in a little fresh lemon or lime as well.

IMG_7736Cumin seeds top right, black mustard seeds bottom and fenugreek seeds top left.


Bengali Khichuri – perfect for convalescing and detoxing

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

If you are feeling a little under the weather, have the winter blues or just fancy some good old Indian comfort food, then read on, this post is especially for YOU>>>>>>>

Khichuri is a traditional Ayurvedic Indian dish, consisting of rice and lentils, that is given to those who are convalescing, detoxing  or fasting, it’s also really popular during puja time. Whilst it can be eaten in its pure form of rice and lentils (no onions or garlic), most khichuri that I have eaten consists of a vegetable or two thrown in as well. It’s the perfect dish to prepare if you need to use up any vegetables before they go off.  The Anglo-Indian dish of ‘kedgeree’ was inspired from khichuri and although it tastes very different the consistency is similar.

My eldest daughter (Big A) has been poorly recently and this is what I prepared for her as it is both nourishing and easy to digest.

There is no set rule on which lentil you need to use or vegetable for that matter. I tend to opt for red split lentils as they are the quickest to cook and need no soaking, although mung beans are also good to use (they do need soaking) as they are known for their ability to remove toxins from the body. My version includes carrot, courgette and and peas. Other vegetables would work equally well so if you have squash, marrow, cauliflower, pumpkin, green beans in the fridge (garden) pop one or two of them in and it will taste divine.

I have not included chilli in this dish as I was feeding it to my daughter, however, if you need a chilli buzz yourself just pop it in (whole or chopped) during  number 2 on the steps below.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Bengali Khichuri

Serves 2-4

100g red split lentils

100g white rice (if using brown it will take twice as long!)

900ml boiling water

1 carrot, peeled and diced

1 large handful of fresh/frozen peas

1/2 courgette, partly peeled and diced

1 tsp of fresh ginger, finely grated

1 tsp garlic paste

4 green cardamom pods

1 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 white onion, finely chopped

1/4 tsp of garam masala powder

1/2 tsp turmeric

pinch of asafoetida/hing

1 tsp salt

freshly ground pepper

1 tbsp ghee/butter/or a splash of oil

fresh coriander to garnish

1. Rinse the rice and red spilt lentils a couple of times in cold water so as to get rid of any impurities and than place in a large saucepan with 900ml of boiling water and the chopped carrots and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

2. Meanwhile place the ghee/butter/oil in a saucepan and gently fry the onion. After 5-7 minutes add the cumin seeds, ginger and garlic and mix into the onions. Following this add the turmeric, garam masala, asafoetida and stir once again. Take a spoonful of the boiled rice and lentils and mix into the saucepan ingredients and then return it back into the main rice and lentil saucepan.

3. Stir all the ingredients together and add the courgettes and peas (or any other greens you need to finish up). Simmer for a further 5-7 minutes and add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. You may find you need to add a little more water, but just enough to make sure that the rice and lentils do not stick to the bottom of the pan. It is not meant to be the same consistency as a soupy dal.

4. Serve into bowls with a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA