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.


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.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Not a Foodie Holiday in Sri Lanka

About two weeks ago, I visited our neighbour Sri Lanka for three days. I did not get much opportunity to taste authentic, local food because our group was busy touring. There was Sri Lankan food in the breakfast buffet in our hotel and on my request, a couple of dishes at lunch the next day, but they were not very different from what we eat here in India.

We got appams, egg appams (hoppers), red rice idiyappams (string hoppers) with dhal curry, and milk rice. We also tasted some sambols, especially the pol sambol, seeni sambol and katta sambol. For me, the pol sambol was no different from the coconut chutney made at home with red chillies and a bit of tamarind.

Here are some pictures from my Sri Lanka trip.

The beach at Bentota, where I stayed.

Plumeria/frangipani, which was everywhere

I don't know what this is but it was so beautiful - the stems holding the leaves were so thin that the leaves seemed suspended in air.

The beautiful Alpenia, from the ginger family

I always thought rambutan came from South-East Asia, I was surprised to see it growing wild here.

It was being sold in heaps on the street.

I'm told this is some kind of a mushroom, it's sprouting from a bench.

Lawariya, string hoppers stuffed with coconut and jaggery

This caught my fancy.

So did this.

Oil cake, or konda kevum, somewhat like the unniappam of Kerala

Athirasa, made of rice flour and jaggery

Walithalapa - it is sweet, but not sure what it's made of

Pol roti (foreground) and vegetable roti 

King coconut

Overlooking the fort are the various blues of the Indian Ocean

Cinnamon sticks, in a plantation

Cinnamon, shaved and laid out to dry

Processing the cinnamon

Just like India!

Palm sugar treacle - it's supposed to be a great delicacy eaten with curds

Outside a grocery store

Coconut-stuffed pancakes


Mixed greens mallum

The Bentota railway station - did you notice it is designed to look like a train?

Kalutara stupa

Kalutara vihara

Offerings at the Kande Vihara temple

The Buddha, said to be the largest seated Buddha in Sri Lanka, at the temple

The 18th century Kande Vihara temple, between Aluthgama and Beruwala in South-West Sri Lanka