Saturday, 21 June 2014

Not just a load of old lentils.

When I became a vegetarian in the eighties my family were concerned. Would I get enough protein? What on earth would I eat? It may seem odd to us now where vegetarianism has become so common place to speak of a time where being vegetarian was seen as a little odd. One of the first meals I cooked my parents was a simple red lentil dish flavoured with onions, tinned tomatoes, dried mixed herbs and grated cheddar cheese. "Spanish lentils" it was called, though I am not sure what was Spanish about it. It was like a sloppy version of that wholefood stalwart, the cheese and lentil wedge. But, hey, cheese, lentils, what's not to like? Over the years I would visit my parents and whilst there cook a meal for them. They were always complimentary and my mother appreciated some one else cooking for the night but I never convinced them of the merits of vegetarian cooking. Except this one dish. I remember phoning my parents one evening and my mum asking what I was having for tea ( as mum's do) before telling me they were having "that lentil dish you do" . Apparently my father liked it a lot but had added a kick of chilli to make it his own. 

Sadly my father passed away 25 years ago. If he was alive today I would cook him maa ki dal, I am sure he would love it. I recently tried a version found in Rick Stein's India.  I loved the TV series but only bought the book because it was discounted.  Being a seafood chef there are a lot of seafood curries and some meat dishes too. But the vegetarian and starters chapters are excellent. Stein really gets that these vegetable dishes can be the star of the meal, not simply a side dish. About the maa ki dal, Stein says that after weeks in India having a meal without dal became unthinkable. He said the following dish was the first that made him think he could happily live without meat. Whole urid dal is not common in the UK outside of Indian food stores but it is worth tracking down. The resultant rich dal is great with flat breads but I prefer a hunk of home-made sourdough bread. I suspect one could make a delicious cottage pie, the rich gravy would compliment creamy mashed potato. Perfect comfort food!

I'll post my own favourite urid dal recipes over the coming months. 

1 comment:

  1. As well as tarka dal, maa ki dal is my second favourite - my father is a great fan of it and has my sister in laws make it for him once a week, I am sure your father would have enjoyed it too. I' enjoyed Rick Steins series too, not seen the book - will have to check it out at my library. PS The Spanish lentils dish sounds lovely too, maybe you should make that some day for us.