~Let’s start at the very beginning ~
Almost every State in India (and we have a fair few)- has a version of the humble lentil soup that we call Dal. In regular home meals, dal is included several times a week..well, it was in my family! Because it’s such a versatile dish, it can be made thicker to go with naans or rotis, or quite frankly, any breaded accompaniment! (I’ve had dal with a beautifully crusty, seeded loaf) It can also be made a bit thinner in consistency to go delectfully with rice and pulao! It’s fairly common to add either a vegetable dish or a meat one alongside the staple dal and rice and that’s why today I’ve decided to share the recipe for a simple, healthy Tadka Dal, Basmati rice, and Mughlai Shammi Kebab.
~Our Everyday Tadka dal~
What you’ll need:
- One cup moong dal/spilt skinned mung lentils (yellow, the whole ones are green)
- 1 medium size onion, finely chopped
- 1 medium size tomato, chopped
- ½ inch ginger, finely chopped or grated
- ¼ tsp red chili powder
- ⅓ tsp turmeric powder
- 3 cups water
- salt as required
- Thin whole green chillis (that’s the recommended variety for all Indian recipes and are available in Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose) use as desired. We use 2 per cup of raw lentils.
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 4-5 garlic, chopped fine (do not use garlic paste)
- ¼ black mustard seeds (available in the herbs and spices section at Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose)
- Optional: 1 or 2 dried red chillis . It gives the seasoning a smokey heat…probably best left if you’re not massively into spicy food or while using dal in a healing/detoxing capacity!
- curry leaves
- 2 tbsp oil or ghee (if you chose oil, stick with sunflower as it’s taste is most compatible with Indian cuisine)
- Add the dal, ginger, chopped onions, chillis, tomato, turmeric powder and the water to a pressure cooker or large pot. The choice of utensil slightly changes the texture of the dal, but both are equally viable options!
- stir well and pressure cook till the dal is cooked and soft. Two whistles on the cooker, or till you see the dal get soft enough to smash into a paste
- once the pressure settles down, remove the lid and stir the dal.
- if the dal looks too thick, then add some hot water and simmer for 1-2 minutes.
- add salt and keep aside
(Most experienced cooks claim that it’s in the best interests of lentils to add the salt after they’ve been cooked. There are various myths about the Why of the matter -one is that the lentils don’t break down easy if they meet salt early on in the cooking process. I have no real idea why, but have learnt to appreciate these little nuances as part of the joy of Asian cooking…Asian anything really…”why? who knows…it’s been the same way for 100’s of years!” )
Once the lentils are cooked, smash it down with a wooden spoon to the consistency you prefer. I mash half of the lot and let some remain whole, that to me, is the best texture.
- In a small pan, add the oil and set the flame on low, when the oil is hot (not smoking), lift off the heat and add chopped garlic and fry till garlic seems a bit caramelised, then add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, dried red chilli and curry leaves You can return it to the heat, but see that none of the spices burn or the dal will taste bitter.
- Add this to the cooked, hot dal and hear it sizzle as the tastes and aromas start to blend together! Garnish with washed ,freshly chopped coriander! (The chopped, frozen varieties work as well, so don’t fret if you don’t find a fresh bunch around! )
Steamed Basmati rice is made with a ratio of 1:2 . One cup rice to two cups plain water. Add a tad bit of salt and get it going on the hob till done! Don’t stir it more than once whilst half done. On finish, fork it through before serving. I sometimes put mine in the microwave for 14 minutes full power (for 1 cup)- done to perfection! For a more lavish serving, add some ghee or butter to the mix before cooking, a small dollop!
~Mughlai Shammi Kebab~
Other than the Indian subcontinent, this variety of kebab is apparently popular even as far as Iran and Azerbaijan! With subtle differences, in my opinion, this dish has made it’s way to every area that was influenced by the Mughals. My mother learnt to make this from her very close Muslim friend -Jameela aunty, and I have very fond memories of watching the both of them making it! It’s goes great with beers and I have snapshots in my head of my parents’ cards and beer parties wrapped in the wafting smells of freshly made shammi kebabs and tandoori chicken!
These kebabs are a slightly labour-intensive process, but the good news is that you can make a lot in one go, and they do so well with home freezing! You’ll never be without a snack when friends pop in! Makes a lovely picnic when you make sandwiches with it, use pita bread, or just a regular bap! The possibilities are endless!
What you’ll need :
- 1 Cup chana dal (Bengal gram or split yellow peas), soaked in cold water for about an hour
- 2 medium onions, roughly chopped
- 10 garlic cloves, peeled
- 60g fresh ginger, roughly chopped
- 1 Kg lean mince (beef or lamb)
- 1 tsp salt
- 3-4 fresh green thin chillies, roughly chopped, with seeds (available at Tesco, Sainsburys and Waitrose)
- handful of coriander leaves, chopped
- 1 tsp garam masala
- ½ tsp red chilli powder
- ½ tsp cumin seeds
- 1Egg, lightly beaten
- 2 tbsp cornflour
- Vegetable oil for shallow-frying
Traditionally, this is made with boneless meat, but I find that that without our Indian standard mixer-grinders (semi-industrial grade ), it just won’t be broken down to a pate-like consistency! ~Trust me, I have two broken food processors to show Mince works just as well!
- In a pressure cooker, add meat, drained chana dal, (lightly saute chopped onions, ginger, garlic, chillies, coriander, salt, cumin seeds and garam masala before adding to the meat),add just enough water to cover everything and cook for 20 mins! This can also be done without a pressure cooker, in which case cook till the dal is soft and mashable! The whole lot should be dry now, or continue cooking without the lid till water evaporates. Cool.
- In a food processor, blend batches of the well stirred meat, dal and spices adding some fresh coriander leaves till it’s a fairly smooth consistency. (here is where I double check salt and spices, it’s all cooked, so you’re safe to do so!) I usually tend to add a few more chillies since we like our food flaming hot It all minces down well and the flecks of green coriander look so inviting!
- Put the blended meat in a large dish and add 2 tbsp of cornflour to bind it! You may need a little more or less, I’ll leave that with you, but you should be able to form patties like this, rather effortlessly. If it’s too soft to hold, add a bit more flour or it’ll fall apart while frying.
- Now, in a separate bowl, beat up the one egg lightly and get the frying pan going on a medium flame with the oil enough to shallow fry. Make about 12 patties at a time and line up, this moves fast Take one, quickly dunk in the egg wash so it’s covered in a thin coat, remove excess by letting it drip off and drop carefully in the oil. Let it fry till brown on both sides and firm so doesn’t crack. It’s about 2 minutes/per batch .
- Serve with a wedge of lime and drink of choice as a snack or make it a part of a larger meal! It’s all good
Health highlight : Because I’m also working at eating healthy home-cooked food, and very often Indian food is seen as a greasy, rich and unhealthy option; I’d like to draw your attention to how you’ve used 2 tbsp of oil in the dal that will feed a family of four, twice! The meat is largely boiled and you’ll see that the shallow frying does not take up much oil. To go down a healthier, if slightly not-so-popular path, omit the egg wash and fry the patties off plain, that takes up a whole 2 tbsp less! The shammi kebab mix will give you roughly about 20 patties, serving a family of four over two times!
NOTE FOR FREEZING: Put patties onto a tray or large plate and freeze thoroughly before stacking and storing. If you stack them up before they’re frozen, it’ll all become one large block of frozen kebab mix. I learned this the hard way!!
(This post was featured in the Britmums February Foodie Round up! )
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