Serves 4–6 as part of a thali
What really sets this traditional Gujarati dal apart from other dals is its consistency and its balance of sweet and sour (khatta meetha). The jaggery not only gives the dal a sweetness, but adds to the earthy blend, while there’s a generous squeeze of sour lime to balance this, and then a whole blend of spices. This dal is also much thinner than most other dals, and the lentils are whisked or blended, making it wonderfully smooth.
200g (7oz/1 cup) toor dal, yellow split dal or pigeon peas
1.2 litres (2 pints/5 cups) boiling water
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 teaspoon Spice Kitchen cumin seeds
1 teaspoon Spice Kitchen mustard seeds
¼ teaspoon Spice Kitchen fenugreek seeds, optional
1–2 dried red chillies or 1 green chilli, slit lengthways
2 Spice Kitchen cinnamon sticks, optional
2 Spice Kitchen cloves, optional
¼ teaspoon Spice Kitchen asafoetida
10–15 Spice Kitchen curry leaves
5 tomatoes, chopped, or
5 tablespoons tinned tomatoes
½ teaspoon Spice Kitchen ground turmeric
1/2 – 1 teaspoon Spice Kitchen red chilli powder
1 teaspoon grated ginger
1½ teaspoons Spice Kitchen Himalayan salt or sea salt
3 tablespoons jaggery, brown sugar or coconut sugar
handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped, plus extra to garnish
4–5 kokum (dried mangosteen), soaked in water, optional
juice of 2 limes
Rinse the toor dal in a sieve a few times under running water until the water is clear, then tip into a saucepan. Add the measured boiling water and soak for at least 20 minutes, but ideally for an hour. Next, boil for 1 hour on a medium–low heat until the dal is a porridge-like consistency.
Alternatively cook the dal in a pressure cooker with the measured water. Bring to the boil, then pressure-cook over a medium–low heat for 20–30 minutes until the dal is soft and cooked.
With a hand-held electric whisk, whisk the dal so that it becomes completely smooth, or blend it in a blender until smooth.
In a large, non-stick saucepan, melt the coconut oil, then add the cumin and mustard seeds and the fenugreek seeds, if using. When the mustard seeds have popped, add the dried red chillies or slit green chilli, cinnamon sticks and cloves, if using. Add the asafoetida and the curry leaves, then immediately add the tomatoes and stir for a minute.
Add the ground turmeric, red chilli powder, grated ginger, salt, jaggery, coriander (cilantro) and kokum, if using, to the tomato mixture and stir. Pour in the blended toor dal, squeeze the lime in and leave to simmer on a low heat for 10–15 minutes until the colour is orange-brown.
Taste the dal and add more lime or jaggery as required. This dal should have a much thinner consistency than other dals, so add a little water if necessary. Serve in a small bowl with the rest of the thali or at the end of the meal with rice and curries.
Recipe extracted from Saffron Soul by Mira Manek published by Jacqui Small, an imprint of The Quarto Group