So, my mother came to visit and actually requested Indian food. I had made a quick Indian potatoes, peas and cauliflower dish in Nags Head which she liked–apparently a lot. Once my head had stopped spinning, I started thinking about what I could make for lunch, since my dinner was already planned. The fact that the dish was being made for lunch put me at a disadvantage, especially because we did not have any potatoes or cauliflower. I did not want to defrost any meat for lunch, so I knew I was thinking about legumes, specifically dals. On the plus side, if she hated it I figured she could make herself a grilled cheese.
My mother hates lentils. Or thinks she does anyway–since I learned to cook Indian food I am more aware than ever of just how many lentil options there are (whole, split, skinned, skinned and split, never mind the actual different kinds). But she likes split peas, so I started looking at yellow split pea recipes, with just a handful or so “red lentils” (which are skinned and split brown lentils–see what I mean?) to bind the soup. Red lentils (masoor dal) work exceptionally well for this because they disintegrate completely upon cooking, causing the broth to thicken. And, as it turned out, my mother could not taste the lentils, confirming my suspicions just a bit.
This dal needs to be cooked more slowly than I gave it time for. It was superb the next day and the next day after that, but when I served it to my mom I felt it needed yogurt and tamarind thicken it and punch it up (I still used the yogurt and tamarind for the leftovers; they just did not feel as necessary). My husband loved this–he stole at least half of the leftovers from me. My mom liked it. She admitted it tasted very foreign to her, and said that while she would probably not request it, she would eat it without complaining–which she did, by the way. (I should also add I asked for her honest reaction). It may be that we will make a fan of Indian food out of my mother yet!
I made a few subtle changes to this dal, leaving me to wonder if it still qualifies as Kishmish Waale Thane Ki Dal, but unless one of my Indian blogger friends wants to pipe up with an answer, I have no idea!
Kishmish Waale Thane Ki Dal (Sweet Hot Yellow Split Peas with Golden Raisins)
Adapted from 660 Curries, Raghavan Iyer
1 cup yellow split peas
1/4 cup red lentils
1/2 t ground turmeric
2 T ghee
1 large red onion, thinly sliced
2/3 cup golden raisins
3 fresh or dried bay leaves
salt to taste
1 T ghee
1 t dark mustard seeds
1 t cumin seeds
1 t black cumin seeds
2 T minced ginger
2 T minced garlic
1 large or 4 small tomatoes, cored and finely chopped
up to 6 fresh green chile peppers (such as Thai), sliced into 1/2-inch rings with seeds (I left these out and let people make it hot at the table)
salt to taste
1/2 t garam masala
brown sugar for serving, optional
lemon juice for serving, optional
1/4 chopped fresh cilantro
Rinse the dried legumes thoroughly, and then place them in a medium sized saucepan. Add 3 cups of water with the turmeric and bring to a boil. Boil for about 3 minutes, skimming foam off of the surface. The reduce the heat to simmer. Keep an eye on them for tenderness while preparing everything else.
Heat 2 tablespoons of the ghee in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions with a pinch of salt and cook until translucent. Add the raisins and bay leaves and continue cooking until the onions are caramelized light brown. Transfer this mixture to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the skillet.
Reheat the skillet with 1 tablespoon of ghee over medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and cover the pan with foil. When the mustard seeds slow down popping, add both kinds of cumin seeds and cook for about 15 seconds, stirring. Add the garlic and ginger and cook until golden and fragrant, about 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, fresh chile pepper (if using), garam masala and some salt. Stir to deglaze the skillet.
When the split peas are tender and the lentil have fallen apart, add the tomato mixture to the legumes. Also add a pinch of salt, to taste. Let the dal continue to simmer for another 15 minutes–the split peas will fall apart even more and the flavors will absorb. Before serving, mix in the onions (or serve the onion mixture on top, your choice). Mix in the cilantro. Taste for lemon juice, brown sugar or salt. We loved this with yogurt and tamarind chutney.