Lynn’s yellow split pea dal

Are yellow split peas chana, or something else? I always thought chana meant chickpeas, so I’ve gone with the full English description, but I’m happy to be corrected. Having read several recipes for dal, I took inspiration from Madhur Jaffrey’s seminal work “Indian Cookery” for the techniques and then just used the spices and ingredients we had in the cupboard.

  • 250g yellow split peas
  • 1 litre water
  • 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter), or neutral vegetable oil if you want it vegan
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 dessertspoon lazy chili
  • 1 dessertspoon lazy garlic
  • 1 dessertspoon lazy ginger
  • 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds or cumin seeds
  • 1 small onion or 2 banana shallots, cut in half and chopped into thin half-moon slices
  • Salt to taste

Rinse the split peas well in cold water, then put in a saucepan and cover with 1 litre of cold water.  This will seem way too much, but you’ll be surprised at how much the peas absorb as they cook.  I don’t put salt in the water as it sometimes makes the peas tough, and you want them to be mushy and creamy. Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour on a low heat.  If it looks like the water is all absorbed, add a bit more.  Stir it occasionally and, if you’re feeling energetic, mush the split peas against the side of the pan as they break up.

Take the split peas off the heat and leave to one side.  In a frying pan, heat up the ghee or oil and add the mustard or cumin seeds and move them about until they start to pop.  Then turn down the heat a bit, and add all the other ingredients except the salt.  Stir it all about and let the onions/shallots cook until they are soft and slightly catching at the edges.  Add the split peas to the frying pan and stir through the onion/shallot mixture, until the mixture is bubbling. Add salt to taste. If it looks too dry and solid, add a couple of spoonfuls of boiling water.  It should be a soothing, creamy, slightly sloppy mixture.  Serve it hot.

This dal works as an accompaniment to other curry dishes, and if you use neutral vegetable oil it is vegan. It becomes a complete meal if you serve it with rice and a hard boiled egg.  If you find you have some left over, it keeps well in the fridge for a few days in a covered container. You may need to add more water when you reheat it to get the creamy texture back.

Fast cauliflower curry

A totally veggie – or even vegan if you don’t serve it with the raita – super-quick recipe using mainly storecupboard ingredients for those days when you need something fast and full of flavour.  Cheerfully ripped off from Jamie Oliver’s 15 minute meals – but with some changes for convenience (plus I never did like easy-cook rice…)

Serves 4

  • ½ large cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy ginger (or a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated)
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy garlic (or 2 cloves of fresh garlic, crushed)
  • 1 onion, grated, or chopped finely
  • 1 teaspoon very lazy chili
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 x 400 g tin light coconut milk
  • 1 x 400 g tin of chickpeas
  • 1 x 227 g tin of pineapple chunks in juice
  • ½ lemon

For The Rice

  • 1 mug (300g) basmati rice
  • 10 cloves
  • ½ lemon

Remove the outer leaves from the cauliflower, then slice it 1cm thick and put it on a hot griddle pan, turning when lightly charred.

Put 1 mug of rice and 2 mugs of boiling water into a  pan with the cloves, lemon half and a pinch of salt, put the lid on and cook on a low heat.  Heat the oil in a large casserole pan and gently fry the finely chopped onion, ginger, garlic and chili for a few minutes until the onions start to go translucent.  Add the garam masala and stir it round for a minute to heat up the spices before adding any of the wet ingredients.

Add the tin of tomatoes, the coconut milk, the drained chickpeas and the pineapple chunks and their juice.  Add the griddled cauliflower, cover the pan and turn the heat up to high and bring to the boil.  It should be ready when the rice is, but if the sauce is a bit sloppy then take the lid off and give it a couple of minutes at a fierce heat, stirring all the time to prevent it catching on the bottom of the pan. Squeeze the juice of the remaining half lemon into the curry and season to taste  with salt and pepper if it needs it. Check that the rice is cooked through and drain it if there’s too much water in the pan.  Scatter the torn coriander leaves over the curry and serve with the drained rice.

You can serve this with a quick “raita” of fat-free yogurt mixed with fresh chopped mint leaves, and poppadums, chapatis or naan if you want a bit more carb content with your tea.