Note: This is the last of seven recipe installments, which compose a classic Northern Indian Feast. Fine Indian cuisine is not noted for its brevity. The good news is that each of Achla Karnani’s recipes may be made well in advance, then reheated prior to serving. Or divide the recipes amongst your friends, staging your own Indian Feast pot luck. All spices and dry ingredients are available at Indian grocery stores, Bombay Grocers on Packard in Ann Arbor.
Dal is the hindi word for lentil, and is a dish made of split beans, peas or lentils. It can be thick or it can served runny, like a thin soup; the beans may be mashed or left whole. To confuse matters more, dal also refers to split dried beans. Spices and aromatics used to season the dal are what give the cooked beans their character.
According to wikipedia, there are more than 1.2 billion people in India; I’d venture to guess there could be as many versions of dal. This whole bean black dal, as Ashla explains, is the quintessential dish of Punjab. The recipe below is a rich version, perfect as a part of a banquet.
Achla vehemently recommends using a pressure cooker to cook the lentils, which cuts the cooking time. If one is not available, you can cook the lentils all day in a crock pot on low. Or soak lentils overnight and cook on the stove top until tender, 4-6 hours. Or, like I’ve done time to time, simply throw the lentils into any old pot with water and cook until tender, stirring and adding more liquid as needed.
Achla has quite a few things to say about America’s idea regarding curry.
“Curry powder in not an Indian spice. When the British left India, some guy probably asked his cook to put together a blend of spices to take home. Then, after his three-months voyage back to England, he arrived with a bag of rancid spices. He replicated the tainted spices, called it curry powder, then foisted it on you unsuspecting westerners.”
FYI, according to Achla, curry means “something with a gravy.”
This, sadly, is the last of my blogs regarding the Indian Feast Cooking Class, hosted by Achla. I’ve been contacted by readers who tell me they intend to create their own Indian Feast potluck soon. Heartfelt thanks to her from all of us who enjoyed being welcomed into her kitchen.
(BTW: Dals are delicious served with chapatis — yesterday’s post — or naan. Proceeding that were recipes for meatballs, a classic chopped Indian salad, Chicken Biryani, Indian Cauliflower and Green Tomato Curry. This is the final post in the series. If you’re a fan of the kaleidoscopic cuisine of India, particularly Northern India, you may be interested in reviewing them.)