Dhal is the Indian name for a large variety of lentils, beans and peas of the leguminosae family. The variety most commonly available in Britain is the Egyptian lentil or masur (mus-oor) dhal. It is orange in colour and the covering, when present, is dark brown. Other common varieties arc chick-peas known as channa (chun-na) dhal; mung bean or mung (moong) dhal, a small yellow bean sold both with and without its dark green covering; pigeon pea or tur (toor) dhal, also known as arhar (ur-harr) dhal, a flat yellow, mottled split pea; black-eyed beans called lambia (lahm-bia) dhal; red kidney beans called raj ma (rah j -ma) dhal; and urad (oo-rud) dhal which is a small yellow bean with a grey covering.
Dhal is one of the most common dishes in India. Pureed, bland or curried, cooked with vegetables or rice, sweet or savoury, wet or dry, the ways of cooking dhal are endless.
Adapted from a Singhalese recipe, Dhal Curry is a spicy and interesting dish. Serve it with boiled rice, an onion salad and sweet pickles.
2 tablespoons butter
1 onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 green chilli, chopped
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric1
1 teaspoon chilli powder
8 oz. lentils, washed and drained
1 1/2 pints [3 cups] water £ teaspoon salt
2 oz. [1/4 cup] creamed coconut dissolved in 8 fl. oz. [1 cup] water
In a medium-sized saucepan, melt the butter over moderate heat. When the foam subsides, add the onion and fry it, stirring occasionally, for 8 minutes or until it is soft and golden.
Add the garlic and green chilli and continue frying for 2 minutes. Stir in the cumin, turmeric and chilli powder and fry for another 5 minutes, stirring constantly. If the mixture is too dry add a spoonful of water.
Add the lentils and, stirring constantly, fry them for 2 minutes. Stir in the water and salt and bring the mixture to the boil. Reduce the heat to low, half cover the pan and simmer the dhal for 1 hour. Using a wooden spoon, occasionally stir and mash the dhal.
Remove the pan from the heat. Puree the dhal in a food mill or push it through a strainer into a bowl. Rinse out the saucepan, dry it and return the dhal puree to it.
Taste the dhal and add more salt if necessary. Return the pan to moderate heat and stir in the dissolved creamed coconut. Bring the mixture to the boil and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Turn the dhal into a heated serving dish and serve immediately.