Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bring Out The Sorrel. Spicy Dal For a Springy Day

   The weather here in Sonoma has finally brightened up. The mornings are the typical foggy June Glooms which give way to sunshiny afternoons. It's not gotten too hot during the day yet and there sometimes is a bit of a breeze. Because we've had tons of rain this last Winter and Spring, everything is in bloom, and I mean everything! Especially the sorrel.
   I've always loved sorrel. It's not spinach and it's not watercress and it's not even chard. It's it's own self and has a pleasantly tangy lemony taste that adds a beautifully seasonal kick to foods, so when I can get my grubby little paws on sorrel, I love to cook it. But then I found out something very weird and strangely, eerily, Gothically cool about this unassuming little plant. Sorrel can be poison. Yes, you heard me correctly. Sorrel leaves contain something called oxalic acid (also found in rhubarb, ooooh scarey!) that yes, in large quantities can be well simply... poisonous. However sorrel when eaten is cooked not raw, and when I say large quantities I mean really large quantities . So you're not going to be in danger no way no how unless you look like this guy.
Is this you? Thought not. So now that we've ruled out that none of us reading this are cattle, I can say that eating normal portions of sorrel won't hurt you. In fact sorrel is  filled with anti-oxidants and is quite good for you, and that little lemony soury taste you get off the leaves?  Well that's the quick trip to danger town that makes you feel that this simple dal dish is something dangerous, exotic and exciting. So unless you are planning on serving Fugu on a bed of sorrel leaves, don't worry about it.
   Usually sorrel winds up in my soup pot with a bunch of other stuff, but I wanted to make a pot of dal the other day. My dad was in the hospital with complications from flu, I've been doing a bunch of family wrangling and I was in need of a little bit of comfort food. It had to be tasty, it had to be spicy and had had to be not too much trouble. I ran across a recipe for Gongura Pappau aka Toor dal with Sorrel. I was in!

Dal With Sorrel

  The great thing about this recipe, is once the dal has been soaked, the dish itself cooks up pretty quickly. The first thing to do in prepping this is soaking.
 Rinse and then soak 1/2 cup of toor dal for 2 hours.
Fill a pot with 3 and 1/2 cups of water. When it comes to a boil toss in the drained toor dal...
 2 green chilies seeded and finely chopped
 1/4 tsp of fenugreek seeds
 1/2 tsp of turmeric
 Turn down the heat, put a lid on it and simmer  until the dal has softened, about 35 minutes.
 Blend everything together with an immersion blender or a food processo.
 Add  in:
 1 tsp Kashmiri chili or 1/2 tsp of cayenne mixed with 1/2 tsp of paprika
 1/4 tsp of jaggery or dark brown sugar
 3/4 tsp of salt
Mix it all well together.

 So far so good. It's time to season.
 In a skillet or pan heat 2 tbs of vegetable oil
 When the oil is hot toss in:
  1 tsp of brown mustard seeds
When the mustard seeds start to pop toss in:
  2 dried red chilies broken in half
  1 tsp of urad dal
  3 peeled crushed shallots
  8 curry leaves
When the shallots start to brown toss in:
 1 chopped red onion
 Stir it all around until the onions are lightly browned, then add in:
  1 cup of chopped fresh sorrel
 Stir it up until the sorrel has wilted, then add all of this to the dal mixture.
 Add 1 cup of water, bring it all to a boil. When the mixture is boiling toss in:
  1/4 cup of grated fresh or dried unsweetened coconut.
 Stir it all together and serve it hot!
  I'm loving this dal. I put it up to soak and went out for coffee, I came home started writing and then put it on to boil. Bingo, in about 45 minutes, luncheon as they say, was served!
  This dish was really appreciated this week as it lasted a couple of days. It's just as good left over as the first day. My dad has been in the hospital for most of the week suffering from dehydration as an after-effect from flu. My time has been mainly taken up with doctors, hospital visits and parent wrangling. I haven't had much time to cook or write. We picked him up this evening and he's now home with mom, safe and sound and feeling better.  The dal was great warmed up this evening too after our drive back from the hospital.
 Coming up next, I'll be dipping into even more dal dishes. Follow along on Twitter @kathygori


  1. I always think of sorrel in French cooking. Is it typically Indian too? GREG

  2. I wouldn't have thought to use sorrel either - love this perfect spiciness!

  3. That's one gorgeous dish! I love how your photographs show every step and in vivid detail. I am very much intrigued by this recipe, I just might try it. Thanks so much for sharing! I am now following. =]

  4. @sippitysup,
    this is a classic north Indian dish, they use sorrel quite often there.

  5. Belinda@zomppa,
    This is now Alan's favorite dal recipe!

  6. @Free Spirit Eater,
    It's really a great dish, let me know if you try it, I'd be interested to hear

  7. I was telling my mom about how you made this pappu, and she suggested you try making it with chana dal, apparently it's taste better. Also if you haven't already, you should try gongura in a chutney/pachdi form. It's amazing!!!

  8. I love visiting here, not just for the mouthwatering recipes, but your pictures are inspiring. I need to work on mine. You put them to shame!

  9. This is a South Indian version of dal but one that I would definitely want to try. You can even try adding spinach with lots of garlic! Make sure you use clarified butter though :)

  10. @K,
    thanks, I'm cooking a rajasthani 5 lentil dal right now. I will try the other with spinach



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