Indian

Masoor (split red lentil) Dhal

Masoor (split red lentil) Dhal

Revisiting dhals, this time using what are commonly called red lentils, which are split masoor lentils as apposed to whole (see here).

The recipe that follows uses split masoor lentils, sans skin, that reveals their brilliant red hue. As you can see when cooked they are very soft and suspended in a rich soupy broth. This is one of the most popular dhals in India and found on most Indian restaurant menus. It cooks up quickly and has an irresistible universal “comfort food” appeal. I think you will find yourself cooking them up, as I have, and serving them with South Asian meals as well as with “mash ups”, not to be confused with fusion, meals as well.

Split Red Lentils (Masoor Dhal)

Split Red Lentils (Masoor Dhal)

Masoor Dhal: serves 4

  • 1 cup/8oz split masoor (red) lentils
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric powder
  • ½ cup minced shallots
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups of water + more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 small dried red chillies, whole
  • 1 teaspoon chickpea flour (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon panch phoron (5 spice mix) See recipe below.
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated or powdered asafoatida/hing (optional) See note below.
  • Fresh coriander leaves for garnish (optional)

Rinse the lentils well and place them in a large sauce pan along with the turmeric, shallots, and garlic. Place over medium heat, bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam that has formed on the surface and discard. Lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the sea salt and add the whole dried chillies. Cover the pan with a lid and gently simmer for 15 minutes, stirring several times.

Test the lentils to see if they have softened. Stir in the chickpea flour if using and continue to cook, adding just a little water if needed, until the lentils are soft and the liquid has reduced and thickened to a soupy consistency; about 10 to 12 minutes.

Place the ghee (or butter) in the bowl of a metal ladle and hold it over a burner or flame until it is melted and bubbling rapidly. Add the five spice mix and swirl the ladle until the spices are tempered and releasing a rich toasted aroma; about 45 seconds. Then carefully lower the ladle into the center of the simmering lentils. It will sizzle at first. When the sizzling has stopped stir the contents into the lentils. Add the asafoetida (if using) and stir to combine. Continue to simmer for five minutes, then remove from the stove, cover with the lid, and set the pan aside to steep for 20 minutes.

Serving: Remove the whole chillies from the dhal before serving or use them as a garnish with a warning to the chile adverse. They are hot! Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

Suggested: Pair with plain unseasoned steamed spinach. A match made in heaven! 

 

Panch Phoron ( 5 spice mix)

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (black cumin)
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

Combine the whole seeds and store in an airtight jar. Used whole and either tempered in sizzling ghee or dry roasted to release and the flavors.

Note: asafoetida is made from the dried gum of a rhizome in south Asia. It is used as a flavor enhancer and digestive aid that is purported to reduce flatulence. Available in South Asian markets.

Masoor Dhal

Masoor Dhal

 

Dhal is the Sanskrit verb “to split.” In South Asian cookery it generally refers to dried split pulses such as split peas, beans, as well as split or whole lentils.

Dhal also refers to a South Asian thick stew prepared from pulses that are usually eaten with rice and flat breads that accompany a meal.

There are many varieties of pulses used in South Asian cookery including:

  • toor dhal, split yellow pigeon peas
  • chana dhal, split chickpeas
  • yellow dhal, split yellow peas
  • mung dhal, split mung beans
  • urad dhal, split black lentils
  • masoor dhal, split or whole reddish brown lentils

Confused? Not to worry. A trip to a local Indian shop is your best bet for finding a wide variety of pulses to choose from. Buy a few varieties to familiarize yourself with their qualities when cooked at home. Generally, whole pulses, which retain the outer skin, will keep their shape when cooked while split pulses, with outer skin removed, will breakdown when cooked. It really depends what end result you have in mind. Dhals vary in texture dependent on type and length of cooking time. They can be very soft in a soupy broth to just soft in a thicker broth. It really comes down to what your personal preferences and applications are.

In the recipe that follows I used whole deep reddish brown masoor lentils. As you can see when cooked they remain in tact suspended in a rich thick broth. Feel free to use pulses that are available to you. The results will be equally satisfying.

Sabut Masoor Dhal, whole

Sabut Masoor Dhal, whole

Sabut Masoor Dhal:    serves 4

  • 1 cup/8oz whole masoor (reddish brown) lentils
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric powder
  • ½ cup minced onion
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 4 cups of water + more as needed
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 small dried red chillies, whole
  • 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter) or unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon panch phoron (5 spice mix) See recipe below.
  • 1/8 teaspoon grated or powdered asafoatida/hing (optional)  See note.

Pick through the lentils and rinse well. Place them in a large sauce pan along with the turmeric, onions, and garlic. Place over medium heat, bring to a boil, and boil for 5 minutes. Skim off any foam that has formed on the surface and discard. Lower the heat to a simmer and stir in the sea salt and add the whole dried chillies. Cover the pan with a lid and gently simmer for 30 minutes, stirring several times.

Test the lentils to see if they have softened. Cooking time can vary greatly depending on the age of the lentils. If they are not soft, add more water and continue to cook until the lentils are soft, but still in tact for this recipe. Ideally the water will have been mostly absorbed by the time the lentils have finished cooking.

Place the ghee (or butter) in the bowl of a metal ladle and hold it over a burner or flame until it is melted and bubbling rapidly. Add the five spice mix and swirl the ladle until the spices are tempered and releasing a rich toasted aroma; about 45 seconds. Then carefully lower the ladle into the center of the simmering lentils. It will sizzle at first. When the sizzling has stopped stir the contents into the lentils. Add the asafoetida (if using) and stir to combine. Continue to simmer for five minutes, then remove from the stove, cover with the lid, and set the pan aside to steep for 20 minutes.

Serving: 

Remove the whole chillies from the dhal before serving or use them as a garnish with a warning to the chile adverse. They are hot! Garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

Suggestion: Try scattering the cold lentils over a fresh greens salad tossed with a lime coriander leaf vinaigrette!

Sabut Masoor Salad

Sabut Masoor Salad

Panch Phoron ( 5 spice mix):

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon brown mustard seeds
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon nigella seeds (black cumin)
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

Combine the whole seeds and store in an airtight jar. Used whole and tempered in sizzling ghee or dry roasted to release and the flavors.

Note: asafoetida is made from the dried gum of a rhizome in south Asia. It is used as a flavor enhancer and digestive aid that is purported to reduce flatulence. Available in South Asian markets.

Nimbo Murgh

Nimbo Murgh

 

Here is a South Asian dish I have taken a few liberties with for the sake of ease in preparation. Nimbo (lime/lemon) and Murgh (chicken) has many regional variations. The chicken is marinated in sour curds (yoghurt) along with onions and spices. After marinating overnight the chicken is cooked in the marinade with a few additional ingredients. The chicken is then fried or broiled to crispy perfection.

A very easy dish to prepare, especially for a crowd!

 

Nimbo Murgh: serves 4

Marinade: Prepare 8 hours before cooking.

  • 1 whole chicken, divided, or legs and thigh separated, skin on (about 2 pounds)
  • 1 cup full fat yoghurt, drained (or Greek yoghurt)
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced/ ¾ cup
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 ½ inch ginger knob, peeled and grated
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, toasted and finely ground
  • 2 teaspoons hot red chile powder, or to taste
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt

Divide whole chicken into legs, thighs, wings, and breasts, or separate the legs and thighs if using. Puncture the chicken pieces all over using a skewer.

Place the yoghurt in a large mixing bowl and set aside.

Combine the shallots, garlic, and ginger in a mortar and grind into a paste, Then add the coriander seeds, hot red chile powder, paprika, and sea salt and grind everything together until relatively smooth.

Stir the paste into the yoghurt until well combined. Add the chicken to the marinade and massage the marinade into the chicken. Press the chicken into the marinade, cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator to marinate overnight.

Pickled onions: Prepare ahead.

  • 2 onions, peeled and finely sliced across into rings and separated
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seeds

Place the onions in a small non-reactive bowl. Place the vinegar, sugar, and sea salt in a small sauce pan and heat while stirring until the sugar and salt is dissolved. Pour the mixture over the onions and add the mustard seeds and stir to combine. Add just enough water to cover the onions, stir. Place a plate over the onions so they are completely submerged. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for several hours or overnight.

Cooking:

  • marinated chicken and marinade
  • ½ cup freshly squeezed lime juice
  • ¼ cup cold pressed peanut oil if frying
  • 2 tablespoons fresh coriander leaves chopped + sprigs for garnish
  • lime wedges

Bring the chicken and marinade to room temperature and place in a large wide saucepan or skillet Set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat until just simmering. Partially cover and cook, stirring from time to time, until the marinade has been reduced by three quarters. Add the lime juice and stir into chicken and marinade. Bring back to a low simmer and continue to cook, uncovered, until nearly all of the marinade has been cooked away; total cooking time about 40 minutes. Transfer the chicken to a platter, shaking off any excess marinade, and set aside. Set the skillet with the excess marinade aside.

At this point you can either fry or broil the chicken to crisp up the skin before serving.

Frying: Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium high heat until nearly smoking. Add the chicken pieces skin side down and brown until the skin I crispy. Turn the pieces and brown the other side.

Broiling: Preheat the broiler. Place the chicken skin side up on a roasting try and place under the broiler and broil until the skin is crisp. Turn the chicken and broil until crisp.

Meanwhile, set the skillet with excess marinade over medium heat. Stir in a little water and deglaze the pan. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Serving:

Place the chicken on a platter or plate the chicken and lightly sauce with the deglazed pan juices. Top the chicken with pickled onions, fresh coriander sprigs, and a lime wedge to the side.

As Pictured, served with yellow basmati rice (see here) and cucumber salad (see here).

South Asian Yellow Rice

South Asian Yellow Rice

This is a very simple and versatile yellow rice to serve with many South or Southeast Asian dishes, but it also nicely complements grilled meats or fish, or as a side for just about anything that begs for some color, flavor, and enticing aromas.

There are many seasoning options, so get creative!

 

 

South Asian Yellow Rice: 

  • 2 cups rice; Basmati, Thai, or rice of choice
  • 2 1/2  to 3 cups water (or stock)
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 6 curry leaves
  • 8 cardamom pods
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice (optional) 

Additional optional ingredients; chillies (red or green), kaffir lime leaves, lemon grass, coriander seeds , cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds…and so on.

 

Rinse the rice until the water runs nearly clear.

Place the rice and all the ingredients except the lime juice in a large saucepan or electric rice steamer.

If you are cooking in a sauce pan, bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Partially cover and cook until the water is no longer visible. Remove from the heat and add the lime juice if using, stir in, and set aside covered with a lid to steam for 15 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a paddle, and serve.

If you are using an electric rice steamer. Again, add the rice and all the ingredients except the lime juice if using. Lock the lid and press the cook button. Once the keep warm light appears, open the lid, add the lime juice if using, stir in, and close the lid.  Wait 2 minutes and then pull the plug. Allow to steam for 15 minutes. Open the lid, fluff the rice with a paddle, and serve.

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