Thursday, 14 March 2013

A Family Favourite

The Seventh Step of Lisa Alzo's Fearless Females in a favourite recipe from mother or grandmother. I thought long and hard about this.

Nanna was a great cook, her sponge cakes were perfect and melted in your mouth, and her roast dinners mouth-watering. Her crumbed lambs' brains were never rubbery and always delicious. But there was also the tripe poached in milk for my grandfather's breakfast (admittedly Nanna wouldn't eat and complained about the smell), and the sweet "curries" with pineapple and sultanas (flavoured with mild curry powder), which Nanna made because she knew we liked curries. I never had the heart to say I like REAL curries.

Mum had six kids and was always flat out and cooking was just a means of keeping us fed, although her pavlovas were beautiful, as was her apricot chicken. And like Nanna she was great with roast dinners.

So what to choose as a favourite?

In the end it came down to the dish we all wolfed down as kids and I now feed to my own children. It was taught to Mum by our cook in Bangladesh, a young man named Profullah. Just the other day I gave the recipe to Mum as she has got out of the way of it, and I had to really think what to write, as it has become something I just do, and when Mum taught me it wasn't an exact science, just something she did. Anyway, as best as I can, here it is


red lentils
1 onion
garam masala
curry powder (I like Madras)

Finely chop the onion, a clove of garlic and about 1cm of ginger root. Heat a little oil or ghee in a saucepan and when hot add the onion, garlic and ginger. Stir fry until the onion is softening and translucent. Add about 1 teaspoon of garam masala and 1 teaspoon of curry powder and stir well. When fragrant, pour in the lentils and stir well until the spice mix is evenly distributed. Cover with water and turn off the heat. Leave to soak for about six hours or overnight, adding more water as needed. You want the water all absorbed and the lentils soft and swollen. Heat till bubbling slowly, stirring regularly. Serve with basmati rice.

The other way to make it is as if you were doing soup. Do the onions, garlic, ginger and spices the same way. Add the lentils and water, then bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Stir regularly, adding more water as necessary, until the lentils are soft and swollen and all the water absorbed. Serve with basmati rice.

I suppose this is a spiced version of porridge. It can be eaten on its own or as an accompaniment to another dish, such as a curry. Anyway, I make up a huge pot and freeze portion sizes so my kids can have it when they like.

There are lots of versions of dahl, with extras added, or different spices, or whatever. It really seems to be a regional thing. But this is a Bangladeshi version. When we went to England about twenty years ago I was so excited about the dahl in the restaurants because finally someone made it the way Mum did. The difference is most Indian Restaurants in England are run by Bangladeshis, whereas here in Australia, the Indian cuisine is more usually North Indian.

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