I came across Nigella’s recipe for Lentil Tamarind and Date Dhansak last week, which prompted an internal conversation with the self.
Dal without salt? Did the ingredient list miss that by accident or is this dish really meant to have no salt?
Well, moong dal halwa is dal without salt, and that’s the finest dessert ever.
But there’s garlic-infused oil and tamarind in this recipe – no dessert worth its er…salt…has garlic.
Who said this is a dessert?
Guesswork much? Just follow the recipe and find out for sure.
So I did follow the recipe, with a couple of tiny adaptations. I ended up with an unusual, rich and tangy dal, the taste of which grew on me with each spoonful.
Khatti meethi masoor dal is probably not for the traditional Indian palate – if you plan to serve it to someone who picks from a restaurant menu only the dishes s/he recognizes, do so at your own risk. This dal is no turmeric-infused broth with ghee ka tadka – it is closer to a lentil-ized version of imli chutney. Khatti meethi masoor dal stands as a complete dish on its own. I had it with chapatis, but I could as well have done without the accompaniment.
- Masoor dal (red lentils) – 3/4 cup
- Dates – 6
- Tamarind – lemon-sized ball*
- Ginger – 3/4-inch stick
- Garlic – 1 clove**
- Red chili flakes – 1/2 teaspoon***
- Bay leaf – 1
- Cumin seeds – 1 teaspoon
- Oil – 2 teaspoons
- Black salt (kala namak)– a pinch***
- Pomegranate seeds – 1 tablespoon
- Coriander leaves – a few sprigs
* Substituted tamarind paste with dry tamarind.
** The original recipe called for garlic infused olive oil, which I did not have – so I used a clove of crushed garlic to flavor the oil before adding other ingredients.
*** There’s no chili or black salt in the original recipe, but I couldn’t resist adding a bit.
In the picture above (clockwise from top): Fresh coriander leaves, dates, tamarind, red chili flakes, cumin seeds, red lentils, pomegranate.
1. Before you cook
Soak a lemon-sized ball of tamarind in 1/3 cup of water for 20 minutes. Mash to extract the pulp.
Wash red lentils in several changes of water, till the water runs clear. Soak the lentils for 30 minutes. Drain before use.
Pit the dates and chop them into small pieces.
Grate the ginger. Crush garlic.
Shell the pomegranates. Chop fresh coriander leaves.
2. On the fire
Heat two teaspoons of oil in a pan (use a pan with a close-fitting lid, we’ll come to the lid in some time). When hot, add crushed garlic and cumin seeds. As soon as the seeds crackle, add grated ginger and stir for a minute.
Add soaked red lentils next and give it a good stir. Follow with tamarind pulp and two and a half cups of hot water. Bring to a boil, then set the heat to low.
Close the lid and let the pan simmer for 30 minutes undisturbed.
Take off the lid and check the consistency of the dal. Cook for a few more minutes, as long as the dal becomes as soft and thick as you’d like.
Take the dal off the heat and mix a pinch of black salt into it.
Pour khatti meethi masoor dal into serving bowls, sprinkle pomegranate seeds and fresh coriander leaves. Serve along with chapatis or on its own for a wholesome meal.
My internal conversation continues:
How did the dish in the source recipe turn out light-colored? With tamarind and dates in it, I get a rich brown!
Let me know how it turns out for you :-)