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.

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Dried fruit chutney

A fabulous Christmassy chutney which requires patience and a good knife, or if you have no patience, a food processor.

  • 250g dried apricots – the ready to eat kind
  • 300g dried dates
  • 250g semi-dried figs
  • 100g raisins
  • 450g red onions
  • 570ml cider vinegar
  • 50g sea salt
  • 1 level dessertspoon fresh ginger, grated
  • 450g light brown sugar
  • 1 heaped teaspoon ground allspice

Chop the dried fruits and onions finely – either with large amounts of patience and a sharp knife, or bung them into a food processor and whizz them up.  Put the cider vinegar in a large pan with the salt, ginger, sugar and allspice, and bring them to the boil.  Turn down the heat to a simmer and stir in all the fruit and onions.  Leave it on a low-ish heat, stir it occasionally, and in about an hour or maybe a bit longer you’ll have a pan of lovely chutney.  You can tell when it’s done if you draw a spoon across the surface to make a channel, and the channel stays there and doesn’t fill up with vinegar.

Take off the heat and put into warmed sterilised jars.  Do yourself a favour and keep some wide-necked ones handy; they’re much easier to fill!  Seal with vinegar-proof lids (i.e. plastic-covered ones, or use greaseproof circles).  This tastes better after maturing in a dark cupboard for a few weeks.

Cheat’s pea and ham soup

A quick recipe for using up leftover ham.

  • 1 large onion, chopped finely
  • 2 large carrots, chopped finely
  • 2 sticks of celery, chopped finely
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 200g baked ham, chopped
  • 300g tin “chip shop” mushy peas
  • 1 ham stock cube dissolved in 1 litre boiling water
  • 1 bayleaf
  • white pepper

 

Put all the finely chopped veg in a large pan with the bayleaf and the oil, and heat gently, with a lid on the pan. This is called sweating your vegetables.  After about 15 minutes the onions will be softened and transparent.  At this point you can add the ham and the stock. Bring to the boil and turn down to simmering point.  Then empty the tin of mushy peas into the pan and give it a stir.  It’s ready when it’s all heated through.  If it’s not thick enough for your liking, you can add some leftover cooked potatoes (if you want to add raw potato, peel one large potato and chop it finely and sweat it with the other veg right at the beginning).  Season to taste with white pepper.  Remove the bayleaf before serving.

This is the kind of soup which is very accommodating and will accept all manner of leftover cooked veg – although green cabbage, broccoli, and sprouts should be avoided as they stink when overcooked!  If you have leftover veg you want to add, put them in at the same time as the peas.