Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Food-storage Fallback - Masoor Dal

This is one of our family's most frequent fallback foods, as it can be made with no fuss at the end of a shopping week - when there's no meat or extravagant items left in the fridge, freezer or pantry. I'd say the coconut cream is the only item we didn't typically store once...but now that we've become Dal-lovers, it's something I buy whenever it's on special - for the purpose of being curry-ready at all times. I also favour this dish because it has a very simple base, and then each time you make it you can invent a variation with whatever you have on hand, just to mix things up - I'm fond of cooking with what you've got rather than getting what you need to cook (I think we spend more money the latter way). Plus, varying the amounts of each base item doesn't seem to affect the recipe too much - if you don't have as much butter / lentils etc as what's listed, it doesn't seem to matter; make it to your taste. This is from Kate's kitchen - she shared this with me years ago.

  • 2-4 cups rice, cooked
  • 2 1/2 cups red lentils
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2-4 tablespoons curry powder
  • 1/2 can coconut cream
  • 1 small can of tomato paste / 1/2 can tomato purée / 1/2 - 1 full can chopped tomatoes (you decide what colour you want)
  • Veges (optional)
  • Salt (optional)
  • Pepper (optional)
  • Any nuts, seeds, herbs you wish (optional)

  1. Get your rice cookin' if it's not done already. (I use a rice cooker - making this meal even easier.)
  2. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan; bring to the boil.
  3. While the rice and lentils are cooking, sauté the onion in the butter in a large frypan or wok.
  4. Add curry powder, coconut cream, and tomato-ey thing of choice. Simmer over medium heat, stirring often.
  5. Now add any veges you please to (4) - whatever you have on hand. The last time (pictured) I threw in pea pods, rainbow capsicum, sesame seeds, and brocolli florets. Some nights I just shake in a cup of frozen stir-fry veges (great for the end of the shopping week - lentils, rice, tinned sauce and frozen vegetables - all that's needed!).
  6. When the lentils have expanded, frothed, and gone soft, strain and remove with a slotted spoon (or pour into a sieve/small-holed colander) and add to curry sauce.
  7. Mix well.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste (personally, the salt is a must).
  9. At this point I throw in a dash of seeds or nuts (to keep them crunchy), and whatever herbs smell good in the moment. Most often I add sesame seeds (as pictured), sometimes pine or cashew nuts, and often a snip of something green and leafy - again, whatever's on-hand.
  10. Serve your finished dal over rice. (I find my curry is usually finished at the same time as my rice's 20-25 minute cooking time - I love that.)

Do you already make something similar? What do you love to add? Tried this recipe? What variations do you suggest?

P.S. There's nothing stopping you from adding some chicken or some other meat to this - but for me, the beauty of the dish is that the legumes add so much heartiness and oomph, I don't think it's necessary - so it saves money and fills the gap when the meat supply's running low.
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