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Dal (dhal)

Kelly: Dal is really easy to prepare. I lived in the West Indies for 10
years and used to make it the traditional way, basically cooking the yellow
split peas (on med-low heat and stirring frequently to avoid sticking to the
bottom of the pot)til they were completely softened (cook with enough water
to give the consistency you want - you can add more as needed) then using a
"swizzle stick" (you could use a wire whisk)to make it a nice thick soupy
thing. Usually a whole habenero pepper would be added but you would take
care not to "burst" it (unless you wanted super-hot!) and would remove it
before you swizzled it. Then you would put a fair bit of oil in a very
deep-dished ladle specially made for "chunkaying" the dal...this meant
heating the oil in the ladle then adding a good amount of cumin seeds and as
much garlic as the ladle would hold (you had to be really careful cause the
oil would bubble up  when you put the garlic). Then you would pur this
boiling garlic-cumin-oil concoction into the swizzled split peas and stir it
up. It was grand! 

When I went the FF route, I decided to try it without the oil; here is an
easy and sure way to have a nice pot of dal: no specific measurements, it's
pretty easy to figure out. Put a couple of cups (as much as you want; I
probably use about 4 cups; it freezes wonderfully)with enough water to
generously cover peas. Leaving out the oil doesn't compromise the flavour at
all. Add to taste (this may take some practice; go easy at first, you can
add more later): some crushed garlic (or garlic powder), some roasted ground
cumin (if you make your own even better), some curry and/or massala
(available at Indian food stores or your grocery, perhaps), a habenero )or
other kind)pepper (optional, i.e.if you like it hot-remove after peas are
cooked or leave it in and mush up with peas) and a bit of salt if you wish
(I don't bother). Stir occassionally or often, depending on how high the
heat is and when peas are completely softened use a wire whisk or electric
beater to "souperize" it. Be careful! It's hot and has a tendency to spit at
you! That's about it. It's imortant to keep an eye on it while it's cooking
so you donn't burn anything on the bottom of your pot; a heavy base pot and
a medium heat work best. Feel free to add a bit of fresh or powdered ginger,
some parsley, celery seed, mustard powder etc. Great over cooked rice
(especially brown or basmati). I always have containers of it ready to use
in my freezer; sometimes when I'm making a soup I'll throw a container of
dal in the pot, it makes a great soup once you've put in your other veggies,
etc. If you try it you'll probably become addicted to the stuff; it's
wonderful tasting and so easy to make. Good luck. It's essentially a very
thick and spicy pea soup.

To make your own ground roast cumin, toast the cumin seeds over medium heat
(do NOT burn them) til browned and fragrant. Remove from heat and let cool
just a little. Using a rolling pin or beach stone, grind the seeds to a
powder. Once you've made your own you'll never want to by ground cumin from
the grocery store again!

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