Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Chickpea and Red Lentil Dal

Call them chickpeas, garbanzos or chana. To my mind, they are the best legume. They also take forever to cook, which is why we often buy them canned. But any Indian market will sell you Chana Dal, which are peeled and split garbanzos, like green or yellow split peas. This will halve both the cooking time and the cost, and you won't have tough bean skins floating around your dish. Win, win, win.

While you're at the Indian store, pick up a bags of unsweetened, shredded coconut, cardamom, coriander, turmeric, and small, red lentils. Even the smallest bags will keep you supplied for dozens of meals, and the whole basket of stuff should run you about ten bucks. Live large.

Chickpea and Lentil Dal
(adapted from Herbivoracious and Mamta's Kitchen)
1 1/2 cups chana dal (split chickpeas)
1/2 cup red lentils (or whatever kind you have hanging around)
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon gound cardamom
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon ground coriander seeds
1/3 cup heavy or light cream

Look, I know you probably don't own a pressure cooker. But if you want to cook legumes, get one. They're cheap, energy efficient, and safe. A billion Indians can't be wrong! I know your mother has a story about that time in 1960 where they had to repaint the kitchen ceiling. But that's not going to happen, I promise. You can make this recipe without one, but the peas will take an hour or more to cook. As opposed to five minutes in the pressure cooker. Up to you.

Aside from reducing cooktime, soaking beans decreases their gas-producing oligosaccharides. So, if you have time, soak the peas in cold water for a couple of hours before cooking. If you don't, just increase the cooking time by twenty percent.

In the Pressure Cooker:
  1. Drain the soaking water from the peas, and put them in the pressure cooker with 3 1/2 cups of water, turmeric, sugar and salt. Add an extra half cup of water if the beans are unsoaked.
  2. Put on the lid and bring to pressure. Hold at pressure for four minutes if beans are soaked, five if they are unsoaked. Remove cooker from the burner and allow to cool naturally.
  3. In the blender or food processor, pulse the coconut and spices briefly. Add half a cup of very hot water, and run the machine to make a thick slurry.
  4. Stir the spice mixture and red lentils into the chickpeas, and simmer for about 20 minutes more. sitrring occasionally to keep the heavy solids from burning on the bottom of the pan. Taste for saltiness and texture. You'll know you're there when you don't see any red lentils and it tastes creamy, not chalky.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the cream. Serve warm over basmati rice, garnished with cilantro and onions.

In a Conventional Pot:
  1. Drain the soaking water from the peas and add them to the pot with 6 cups of water, turmeric, sugar and salt. Add an extra half cup of water if the beans are unsoaked.
  2. Bring to a boil and simmer, partially covered for about an hour until the peas are tender.
  3. Steps 3, 4, and 5 are the same as for the pressure cooker.
Sorry the Dal photo is kinda blah. That's just how it looks, you know? Would you accept mango ice cream with candied fennel seed sprinkles? Because that was gorgeous!

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