Seductions of Rice




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Simple Dal

from Seductions of Rice by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid
Published by Random House Canada

Serves 4 with rice

One day Naomi was in the kitchen testing a rice that we have never cooked before, a rice she had found in New York City called rosematta. It's a red firm rice from southern India that gave a good smell to the kitchen as it cooked, a rice we have really come to love. When we sampled a spoonful, our first that was, where is the dal? A friend was visiting at the time, so we asked her to stay for lunch, and while we chatted we put on a pot of red lentils, seasoned with a stick of cinnamon (the recipe we give here). In half an hour we were eating rice and dal. So good, and so easy.

1 cup masur (red) Dal
4 cups water
1 inch cinnamon stick
1 to 2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon salt

Seasoning blend

2 tablespoons vegetable oil or ghee
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seed
1 teaspoon cumin seed
1 heaped tablespoon dried curry leaf
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup finely chopped onions (about 2 medium)
Pinch of asafetida powder (optional)
1 teaspoon cayenne powder
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves

Place the dal, water, cinnamon, and bay leaf in a medium pot and bring to a boil. Skim off the foam, lower the heat, and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes, or until tender; the dal will be thick but still soupy. Stir in the salt, then remove from the heat.

Place a heavy skillet over high heat. Add the oil or ghee and when it is hot, add the mustard seed. Stir constantly until the seeds begin to pop, then add the cumin seed and curry leaf. Continue to stir for about 30 seconds, then add the garlic and onions. Lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring constantly, for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the asafetida and cayenne. Continue to cook for another 2 to 3 minutes, or until the onion is thoroughly softened and beginning to brown. Remove from the heat.

Reheat the dal until very hot, then stir in the seasoning blend. Transfer to a serving bowl and top with the coriander. Serve with rice and a salad or plain yogurt.