Chunky, smooth, thick or runny, it’s a buttery lentil curry: Ghees and Dals!
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Guys and Dolls… one of our favourites, here at Cabernet Towers, stemming from the fact that all three editors were in the same student production only a few (cough.. 20… cough – Ed) years ago… that, and it’s one of the all time great shows. Check out some of our other Guys And Dolls themed recipes: Duck Be A Lady (Tonight), If I Were A Bell (Pepper), I’ve Never BEAN In Love Before and Sit Down You’re Rocking The Goat.
As well as being the musical’s title, Guys And Dolls is also sung by Nicely Nicely Johnson and Benny Southstreet in response to Nathan Detroit’s efforts to placate Miss Adelaide and generally bemoaning the change in men’s behaviour induced by women. One of the great numbers… but there are very few duds in this show (More I Cannot Wish You, I’m looking at you… Don’t go expecting a More I Carrot Fish You recipe anytime soon!)
If you check out the original short stories that the musical is based on, by Damon Runyon (a curry aficionado), you may note that the bet about which emporium sells the most cheesecake was originally about which Indian take-away sells the most dal. I’m almost positive that this is not a totally made-up fact.
What is dal, I seamlessly hear you cry in your thousands? (Well, both of you).
Dal is an Indian term used to describe dried pulses, and the dishes based predominantly around these. It is also one of my all-time favourite side dishes for an Indian curry. You may have seen the term tarka dal used. Tarka, as well as being a famous otter, is not a type of lentil, but refers to the buttery tempered spice mix that is combined with cooked pulses. Traditionally, an Indian butter known as ghee is used. Ghee is, essentially, a variation of clarified butter where all the dairy protein has been extracted leaving only the fat, which has a very high smoke point and is therefore perfect for frying at a high temperature.
Ghee, along with the spices listed in the recipe card, are easily obtainable in the UK due to the popularity of Indian food. I often use clarified butter as an approximation to ghee (simply melt the butter and pour off and retain the fat, discarding the remaining white solids) with 150g butter yielding about 100g clarified butter. Try to get hold of some ground coriander and ground cumin at least (and the seeds of both if you can) even if you can’t track down the rest. The following is my version of a tarka dal recipe.
Rinse the pulses well and pick out anything that doesn’t look like a lentil before adding to the pan with the cold water (don’t add salt yet). Bring to the boil and boil rapidly for 10 minutes, skimming off the foam. Reduce to a simmer for another 30-40 minutes until the split peas are cooked through (the red lentils only take about 20 minutes).
Meanwhile, heat the clarified butter and add the whole spices and, after a couple of minutes, the onions. Allow the onions to caramelise really well (be patient). Stir in the garlic and ginger and cook for a couple of minutes then set aside.
You will have your own view on whether you like your dal thick or runny, chunky or smooth – or somewhere in between. Once the pulses are cooked, use a stick blender until the dal is right for you. If you want to add more water, do so… or if it’s too runny, boil more of the liquid away. Add stock/salt to season along with the ground spices and the onion mix. Adjust seasoning and then start on the tarka.
Melt 25g of clarified butter and, when hot, add the spices… and there you go.
Dal can be served as a side dish, a main (along with some naan breads to mop it up), or as a soup (make it a bit more liquidy). You can add some vegetables – stir through some spinach leaves for example. Serve the dal garnished with the tarka and some fresh coriander.