Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Devilled Dhal Curry from The Emerald Isle



Last month, when I went to Sri Lanka, dhal curry made an appearance everywhere at breakfast. We ate it with appams and red rice idiyappams. It did not strike me as very different or even very tasty - the only unusual thing I did notice about it was that the grains of dal retained their shape.

I had bought a book of Sri Lankan recipes from the bookshop at the hotel I stayed in. It's by Doreen Peiris and is called A Ceylon Cookery Book. The dhal curry recipe from her book listed saffron and coconut milk and six red onions. I did not have the saffron so I opted for the devilled dhal curry which left out both the saffron and the coconut milk. It listed '1 dessert  spoon maldive fish (optional)' so I left that out too. I would have left it out anyway, optional or not.

Here's the recipe, the substitutions and measurements are mine

Masoor dal - more than 3/4 cup, less than 1 cup
Kashmiri chilli powder - 1 heaped tsp
Water - 1/4 cup + a little more (please see notes)
Salt water - 3 dessertspoons (36 ml)  (I just used a big spoon that I had)
Green chillies - 3, cut
Coconut oil - 2 dessertspoons (same spoon as above)
Curry leaves- 20-25
Shallots - 6, sliced

Boil the dal till soft with the salt water, water and chilli powder. Each grain should hold its shape, though, not become mushy.

Heat the coconut oil in a pan, temper with curry leaves and add shallots. Once they are fried, add the dhal and mix well. Let it absorb the flavours and take it off the stove.


Notes

Cooking the masoor dal takes some time as it has to be grainy. The instructions were to boil it with salt water and chilli powder, which is unusual for me - I've been told that dal will not boil well with salt (and it did not). I didn't have the patience to watch over it and I pressure cooked it for just two whistles. Despite that, it was hard and I added another 1/4 cup of water and let it cook without closing the lid. I ended the cooking when I felt the dal was beginning to lose its shape.

Also, I am assuming the author meant six shallots rather than onions. Six onions would have been too disproportionate to the cup of dal I used, so I used the shallots. I looked for confirmation on the Internet but was too impatient to continue when the first few results did not show anything so I just went ahead.

The aroma of curry leaves and shallots fried in coconut oil was a revelation (I don't even use coconut oil once a year) and I would make this dish again.

As for the use of the word 'devilled', it occurs a lot in the book that I bought. When I rechecked the meaning of devilled on the Internet, it said 'to prepare food coated with spices'. This was not really spicy, though, but that could have been because I used Kashmiri chilli powder instead of regular chilli powder as I have run out of it.

This is off to Aparna for MLLA this month, started by Susan and managed now by Lisa.




13 comments:

  1. This Dhal looks great. I love that fact that they used coconut oil, I've never done that before.
    Few months ago I went to kathmandu and I also found their Dhal very different too. I wish I learnt how they made it!

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    1. Amelia, I'm off to see Nepali dal recipes!

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  2. Surprisingly, whenever I've cooked massor dal it has always turned into mush .. in the pressure cooker of course. Love that grainy texture.

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    1. Try switching off the fire after just one whistle?

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  3. Sounds pretty much the way we cook our dhal except that it retains its shape. Whats "devilled" about it I wonder? HOw did you like the cookbook, btw?
    Thanks for participating in this month's MLLA.

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    1. Devilled, I learn, is when the food is coated in spices first and then cooked - the book has recipes for many 'devilled' curries, veg and non-veg. I'm still discovering the cookbook, it seems interesting - there's saffron in so many dishes, including cabbage curry!

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  4. I wonder whether that's why saffron is always less expensive in Indian groceries than any other place I have seen? The dish looks great Sra; I would have bought that book too given the chance! ;)

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    1. Linda, saffron is considered expensive here too - this book had saffron in several recipes and I made a cabbage curry with it where I didn't really notice the taste of it.

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    2. I guess that wouldn't surprise me sra -- cabbage, or any brassica for that matter, might easily overpower delicate saffron. I still love the simplest cabbage thoran ever with just coconut and a little mixed dals for seasoning. I could always color it with turmeric! ;)

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  5. Maybe they name it Deviled because when they add safron the colour might change into reddish. I think some dishes from sriklanka as similar like the ones in Kerala.

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  6. A good recipe which is from Sri Lanka, and it's easy to make this one which is made from cabbage and coconut. only? right?.

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    1. Hi Melina, I guess, your link is not leading me to one particular recipe.

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