I would like to introduce you to my dog Finnegan. We have 3 dogs: one German Shepherd and 2 Chesapeake Bay Retrievers. Finnegan is a Chessie and the middle dog at 6 ½ years old, and the most relevant at this moment because when he gets stressed—about anything—he steals food. So when you throw in 2 moves and 2 babies over the last 3½ years, he has pretty much become a compulsive food thief (whereas previously I would have called him an opportunistic food thief). He is the reason I had to make fresh blueberry pancakes this morning and he is the reason there are no pictures to show you of the naan I made for dinner last night.
I apologize—as does Finnegan. He is always abjectly apologetic, but it does not stop him from doing it again. He would also like to tell you that John accidentally left him outside Friday morning, so he could not crawl back into bed with me, and he feels certain that threw him off for the entire day.
I made a dal and naan for dinner last night—luckily we got to enjoy both before Finnegan stole the naan that was intended for tonight’s leftovers. As many of you are probably aware, dal is the word for legumes in India, frequently served as a kind of spiced soup, and naan is a type of flatbread in India, one that has been quite popularized by Indian restaurants in America. So basically we had Indian bread and soup, with a Western salad on the side.
The dal was my own creation, so while the spices and aromatics are all authentic, I am not certain if the combination of flavors is or not. I used panch phoron, a Bengali spice mix, to flavor the dal, which was also flavored by pumpkin and yogurt. The dal I used were yellow split peas and red lentils. I was not certain of the dal until all of a sudden it came together and was fabulous—so this is one dish where tasting as you go might not work as well. You might leave adjustments for the end. I am sorry I did not get photos in a dish (as opposed to the pot) because the color of this dish was stunning, but the naan had me totally distracted.
Laura’s Pumpkin Dal with Yellow Split Peas and Red Lentils
1 ½ T panch phoron*
1 onion, chopped
3 T ghee
2 T minced/grated ginger
2 T minced garlic
½ t turmeric
2/3 cup yellow split peas
1/3 cup red lentils
1 cup vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 15 oz can pumpkin
2-6 T palm sugar/jaggery/light brown sugar
Salt to taste
2/3 cup low fat yogurt plus more for garnish
Place the yellow split peas and water to cover them by 2-3 inches in a small sauce pan and bring to a boil.Simmer until tender, about 1 hour.
Meanwhile, heat a large soup pot or dutch oven over medium high heat until hot but not scorching. Add the ghee and heat it through. Then add the panch phoron and fry, flavoring the ghee, for 30 seconds. Add the onion and cook, stirring to prevent sticking, for 7 minutes. Then add the garlic and ginger and get a measuring cup with 1/3 cup of water in it to place beside the stove. Cook the onion mixture another 10 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Add a splash of water if the mixture seems to scorch or stick to the pan. I added water frequently in small amounts toward the end. The darker you can get the onions without burning them the better. At this point everything will be quite fragrant.
Add the yellow split peas, including the water, into the pan along with the 2 cups water, stock, turmeric and pumpkin puree. Throw the red lentils into the pot. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour. Add more water if it seems too thick to you. Toward the end, add the sugar. I would add a small amount here and wait until the very end to see if you want it sweeter. Jaggery would be the most traditional (and hard to find); I used palm sugar but light brown sugar should work fine.
Place the yogurt into a medium sized mixing bowl. When the red lentils are tender and the soup is done simmering, take it off of the heat. Ladle some of the soup into the yogurt, slowly adding more after whisking. You are tempering the yogurt to get it slowly used to the heat of the soup. This is to prevent curdling, although honestly curdling does not bother me much, it does not seem to affect the flavor in those times when I have been impatient and accidentally curdled the yogurt or sour cream. Add the tempered yogurt into the soup and stir in. Taste for seasoning (salt and sugar). Serve with an additional small dollop of yogurt.
As usual you will notice I left out any chile peppers—because of the girls. I served this with cayenne pepper on the side for John. If you are looking for heat, you could add chopped fresh chile peppers with the garlic and ginger and/or cayenne peppers with the turmeric powder.
It is traditionally made using equal amounts of (all whole) cumin seeds, black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, fennel seeds and nigella seeds (or Kolonji). Yamuna Devi, whose book I use below for my naan recipe, recommends that newcomers use 3 parts cumin, fennel and mustard seeds to 2 parts nigella seeds and 1 part fenugreek seeds. I made my panch phoron over the holidays, when I was making my traditional Indian holiday feast for the in-laws, and so I compromised, since on the one hand we love Indian food but on the other I cannot really say we have had much Bengali food. I used 3 parts cumin, fennel, mustard and nigella seeds to 2 parts fenugreek seeds. We LOVE this spice mix so next time I will make it with all parts equal.
Source: Lord Krishna’s Cuisine: The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cookingth times with the following recipe. The first time I made it for my in-laws in the afore-mentioned holiday meal, and while it was a success, I think I overcooked the naan a bit. One thing I think all flatbreads have in common is that they require you to get the knack of timing down for that particular bread since they cook so quickly. This second time it came out even better—as Finnegan can attest. I think it is a fairly flexible, forgiving recipe as well because while I followed the recipe exactly the first time I made it, this time I made it more by feel and did not measure much. I would say that if you have experience making bread you should not stress over the exact amount much—the dough pretty much feels like all bread dough and you will know when it is right. If you do not have much experience, well I will give you whatever pointers I can think of.
½ cup sourdough starter, at room temperature
4 T melted ghee
½ cup yogurt
3 cups unbleached white flour (I used AP)
2 t sugar
1 t salt
1 t baking powder
½ t nigella seeds (kalonji)
Mix the starter, ghee and yogurt in your mixer or a large mixing bowl. Add the sugar, salt, baking powder and nigella seeds and mix thoroughly. Add the flour slowly; Devi likes working it in by hand. Personally I am too lazy and used my mixer—when the dough gets too stiff for the paddle, switch to the dough hook. Add flour until the dough forms a ball and clears the sides of the mixing bowl. Devi would say when you are kneading it, it should become nonsticky and kneadable—same idea. May take a little more or a little less than 3 cups. Depending on the hydration of your starter, you may need to add some water as well (I keep a 50% hydrated starter and found it was a little dry for this recipe). Knead for 6-8 minutes or until smooth and elastic (mine was fairly soft, as you can maybe see from this picture). Place in a lightly oiled bowl and cover—let rise for 4 hours or until well risen. Make sure your room is warm enough or it will take longer (I had to turn my oven on). “Well risen” does not seem to mean doubled necessarily—neither time did mine truly double but it came out fine.
Punch the dough down and knead briefly, adding some flour if it is too sticky. Divide into 6 pieces, forming each into a ball. Place them on an oiled plate and cover with plastic wrap. Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes.
Set a rack in the lower third of your oven and a second rack right under the broiler. Place a large stone pan or pizza stone or clay tile on the lower rack. If you have none of these, she says a cast iron skillet will work, but I have not tried it. Preheat the oven to 550 (or as high as you can) at least 20 minutes in advance, preferably longer.
Working with 2 balls at a time, pull and stretch each one into a rough teardrop shape, about 10 inches long and 5 inches at its widest. Don’t get hung up on the proportions. I diverge from Devi here as she has you remove things from the oven a lot—not only do I not have the heat proof counter space, but as long as you have a pair of long tongs, I thought it was a waste of heat. Pull out the bottom rack as far as it can go and even pull out the stone/pan a bit as well. Slap the dough onto the pan, one at each end (or one each in its own pan). Immediately shut the oven and set a timer for 3-5 minutes (it will take you the first set to settle on a time, it was 4 minutes for me). The naan will puff and begin to brown a little. As soon as it is stiff (i.e., you can grab it with a tong), move it to the rack under the broiler. (It may blacken at some of the thinnest spots—just ignore. You have to move too quickly to worry about perfection, after all you are doing your best to emulate an incredibly hot clay oven. Don’t make the mistake of letting it cook too long in the first stage, which is what I did the first time. If it is browning all over, putting it under the broiler will just overcook it.)
Anyway, using the long tongs, at the end of the 3-5 minutes, move the naan to the rack under the broiler and switch your oven to broil. Keep a careful eye on it, this stage happens in seconds not minutes. As soon as it starts to get little brown/black specks on top of it, remove it from the oven and place in a tea towel to keep warm. Repeat the process with the remaining balls of dough.