Posted 10th April 2007
It’s been a glorious four-day break for Easter. The sun shone bright, while I consumed enough chocolate to stuff a real bunny. And there was enough tree pollen in the air for me to wander around in a OTC drug-fuelled haze.
Amidst all this, I also found time to cook fish curry, chicken curry and dal. Perfect, really.
My last lesson before I move on to recipes is all about dal. Dal is a preparation of boiled lentils with vegetable and spices. The spices are normally tempered in hot oil first, which means they are allowed to sizzle and release their strong flavours before these aromas are trapped in the lentils.
This tempering process is also known as tarka, popu, baghara to name but a few.
There are a number of different lentils used in Indian cooking and each has its very own special tarka and cooking time. Indians can be quite sniffy about staying true to authentic tarkas. So it is inadvisable to replace the lentils used in a recipe with a completely different one.
The popular Indian lentils are masoor, moong, toor, chana and urad. There are also variations within these types, for instance you can buy moong (mung) beans with a green husk or without and urad lentils whole with a black husk or split and huskless.
Dal is normally eaten with rice or Indian bread like rotis and parathas. It is not common practice to drink it as a soup in India, although lentil soup is quite fashionable on supermarket shelves.