Guru Sri Subramanium was an excellent cook. He loved to give cookery lessons, teaching us to prepare the ingredients with great mindfulness, gentleness and reverence, always aware that our state of mind and feelings would be registered in the final dish. Guru used to say that in whatever we cook ‘love is the most important ingredient’.
For over forty years, dal has been a daily staple at Skanda Vale – how many tonnes of dal we must have served in that time?! This is the full and fancy version, we often make a simpler version if we don’t have all the ingredients available, but it always tastes delicious.
Ingredients: (serves 7-8 people)
- 1kg of red masoor dal
- Approximately 2 pints of water
- 125ml (2oz) lemon juice. (Important because it cuts through the fat in the ghee).
- 500 grams of baby spinach (or you can use finely chopped large leaf spinach)
- 5 diced tomatoes
- 1 medium bunch of finely chopped coriander
- ½ block coconut cream
- 1 level tablespoon of asafoetida
- 1 level tablespoon haldi (tumeric)
- 2 level tablespoons of cardamom pods
- ½ cup of butter ghee
- 3 large onions, finely chopped
- A handful of dried red chillies (don’t crush them, unless you like it really spicy)
- A handful of curry leaves
- A whole large bulb of garlic – finely chopped
- 2 level tablespoons of mustard seeds
- 2 level tablespoons methi (fenugreek)
- Salt to taste
- First, wash the lentils thoroughly in a sieve until the water runs clear. Then set them aside.
- Start boiling the pint of water with the lemon juice and the tomatoes.
- Add all the spinach, until it has reduced down.
- Add the coconut cream, coriander, asafoetida, haldi and the cardamom pods.
- Add the lentils and bring to the boil.
- Let them simmer, until they change colour, and set aside.
- IMPORTANT! Don’t stir the lentils too much, or they’ll turn into mulch!
Then, in a separate pot heat up the butter ghee.
- Add the onions, and let them fry.
- After a few minutes add the curry leaves and the chillies.
- Stir regularly until they start going soft brown. It is very important that you keep an eye on them very closely, so that they don’t burn. Especially around the edges – keep on stirring!
- When they turn golden brown add the mustard seeds, the fenugreek, and finally the garlic.
- Carry on stirring continuously for another minute or so (don’t let the onions burn!)
Now, back to those lentils…
- Add the salt to the lentils, without stirring it in.
- Pour the onion mix into the lentils.
- Be very careful! The ghee will boil when it comes in contact with the lentils.
- Stir in gently, without smushing the lentils up.
- Cover, and let them stand for a few minutes before serving.
If you want to store your dal for more than a few days, then reduce the amount of haldi and coconut cream.