Da-Dhal!

Here is my recipe for dhal.*

Ingredients. Serves 4.

200 g masoor lentils (the little red ones) and 200g mung lentils (the little whole green ones)
A fat man’s thumb of grated root ginger
800 - 1200 ml water (or more, depending on how sloppy you fancy)
3 tsps turmuric
3 tsps whole cumin seeds
2 tsps mustard seeds
2 - 8 tsps dried red chilli (or 2/3 whole chillies)**
2 - 4 cloves of garlic
2 medium onions
3 tbsp ghee or ground nut oil for frying (ghee much better)
2 - 6 tbsp ghee or butter to monter au beurre (ditto)
a handsome rustling beard of coriander

1. Wash lentils until water runs clear (or your dhal will smell a bit like a Bangladeshi warehouse behind Brick Lane) then bring to boil with the water, turmeric and ginger. Skim off any p’scooma that appears on the top and reduce to simmer for about an hour and ten, until the lentils are as mushy as a small wet ball of tissue that a schoolboy might flick at a girl he secretly fancies.

2. Meanwhile put an empty frying pan on the grill, heat to very bloody hot and add the cumin seeds, toasting them till wrists of smoke arc from the pan and they turn the colour of Jennifer Lopez. Tip into a mortar and pestle the bitch.

3. When the lentils are ready, heat up the ghee for frying, also to superhot, and add the onions. Cook until they are brown and crinkling up at the edges like the pages of an heretical essay on the fundamental unity of man and God being thrown into an auto de fe by a righteously exultant Tom├ís de Torquemada, but not before or you’ll bugger the whole thing up - the onions have to be dark, sweet and crispy. Add to the lentils but keep the ghee in the frying pan. 

4. To the ghee oil you’ve just used add the garlic and chilli and fry until the garlic is singed and drying up and the chilli is browning. Put on the theme music to the teevee show The Avengers, take off all your clothes and add the ground cumin and the mustard seeds. The room will fill up with acrid smoke and the mustard seeds will start popping and pinging all over the kitchen, stabbing your exposed flesh with minuscule burns. Whoop and leap around in chaotic rampant bird-like panic, or stand poised and Clint-cool for half a minute or so (too long and, again, you’ll ruin the final thing) before adding the spice mixture to the lentils in a dramatic sizzling shwoooooshhh. 

5. Chop the coriander and add the ghee or butter. You can’t really add too much of either. The more butter you add, the better it tastes. In restaurants they put a few kilos in I think.

6. Season and serve with rice. I use brown rice because white rice binds me up. Eat to Suhani Raat Dhal Chuki by Mohammed Rafi.

Tastes very good heated up the next day. I sometimes have it with a single pillow of shredded wheat, some steamed toast and a hard-boiled Dodo egg.


*This is, of course, an edited version of the recipe. The full version, which involves gently massaging my lentils, counting cumin seeds one at a time and growing my own onions in champak-inflused soil would take a few books to explain.
  
**Spiciness of food is measured in sods. Up the chilli to 10 tsps if, like me, you like to be slapped about by a massive Indian sod.