I am eternally grateful for the fact that my daughter seems to have quite the palate for spice; a feature which I attribute primarily to her Guyanese heritage, although an equally arbitrary reasoning would be that I consumed a hell of a lot spice during her gestation, or that everyone on both sides of her parentage have a considerable penchant for fiery foods. Regardless of the cultural, environmental or consanguineous underpinnings, she likes fragrant foods. This helps me because it means more often than not we can eat the same food, which in turn not only lessens my workload but also provides me with a certain level of gratification in relation to the latest arguments for what kids should be eating i.e. what they’re parents are eating.
Having said all that, my recipe for dal isn’t fiery in the least. It is a dish that I’ve concocted from a hybrid of desi tips, my mother’s hari krishna cookbook and my own very Anglicised ways and as such, I can only apologise to those more authentic cooks who will no doubt find my contribution totally offensive. However, I will say that it is one of my more fail-safe toddler meals and also one that I find extremely comforting as an adult, particularly on those days where I need something, rather paradoxically, both tasty and bland (which seems to be a recurring theme in this blog).
So without further ado:
A small glug of vegetable oil, an onion (diced; half an onion if it’s a large one), a clove or two of garlic (finely chopped or minced), garam masala (around a tsp), curry powder (around 2-3 tsps), fenugreek seeds (1 tsp), split pea or yellow lentils (around 1/2 to 1 cup), water, half a stock cube or bouillon.
Glug the oil into a pan and heat. When it is hot, add the onion and cook until nicely browned (browned, not sauteed and not burnt), add the garlic and cook briefly without allowing it to catch. Turn down the heat slightly, add your spices and cook a further minute or less. Add the lentils, stir to coat with the spicy onion mix then add your water and stock cube (I don’t have a measurement for you I’m afraid. I generally add enough to cover the lentils with another centrimetre or two on top. I also tend to add more water as I go. It’s trial and error because you want the dal to be a little wet at the end but you don’t want to overcook the lentils, unless of course you like spicy mush. So I leave this to your judgement). Then you pretty much leave everything to simmer away until the lentils are al dente to the taste. Serve with some basmati rice and to really offend all authentic sensibilities, a dollop of butter. Peppa Pig spoon optional.