Thursday, March 3, 2011

Coconut Dal, Warm & Hearty, A Classic Recipe From One Of The Pioneers Of Indian Cuisine

    I have been going through coconut milk around here like a turkey in the corn, or some such folksy term. In other words I've been using a lot of it. Many of the South Indian dishes I've been whipping up lately feature coconut in one form or another, and I was shocked to notice the other day that coconut milk isn't just some exotica in a can anymore. It's sold fresh and cold in my dairy case the same way my almond milk is. Who knew? It just sort of snuck up on me. One day it wasn't there and the next there it was, boxes and boxes of it. Which is a good thing for me as I always try to keep an ample supply around here.
  This last weekend for my Oscar dinner I decided to make a dal dish that I'd fixed a few days earlier and just loved. It's a dish that I've been making for years, but it's one of those that had fallen out of the mealtime rotation. You know, one of those dishes that everybody loves and you make a lot, and then for some reason newer shinier dishes come along and seduce you with their sexy ways (vada I'm taking about you) and so the old dish sort of falls off the menu for a while. Those are my favorites to revive.  "Yow!", I think to myself, "where have you been all my life and why did I stop cooking you?!! C'mere you sexy toor dal you."  Another great thing about this dal dish, like a lot of the things I like to cook around here, it can be made in about 1 hour.

   This recipe originates with Mrs. K M Matthews .
She was to Indian food what Julia Child was to French. She wrote 17 cookbooks in Malayalam and 4 in English. Mrs. Matthews got people cooking ! The great thing about this dal dish is it's doable, a no brainer and after a hard work day... many times that's about where I am.

Coconut Dal

Here's what to do:
Rinse and drain 1 cup of toor dal..(yellow split peas, don't be scared)
Put it in a heavy pan along with:
  3 and 1/4 cups of water
 1/8 tsp of turmeric
Bring it all to a boil and turn the heat down, put a lid on things (slightly ajar) and let it all simmer for about 45 minutes.
Now, toss in:
 1 Tbs of chopped shallots
 1 tsp of ground cumin
Stir that in and put the lid back on, a bit ajar, for another 15 minutes.
Toss in 3 green chilies slit down the middle and cook for another 10 minutes or so until the dal is nice and tender.
 If it starts to thicken up too much, you can pour in 1/2 cup of boiling water.
 Keep it on a low heat while you prepare the grand finale.

The Grand Finale:
In a small skillet heat 2 Tbs of vegetable oil (I use coconut oil)
When the oil is hot toss in:
 1/2 tsp of brown mustard seeds
When the mustard seeds start to pop add in:
 10 fresh curry leaves (these can be found at most Asian markets)
  2 whole dried red chilies broken into pieces
When the chilies darken add in:
  2 Tbs of chopped shallots
Stir it all around until the shallots darken a bit, then add in 1 medium tomato diced.
Now, since tomatoes are not exactly in season here right now, I used about 1/2 of a can of tomatoes.
Stir it around for a few minutes until the tomatoes are softened, then pour the entire skillet of seasonings and tomatoes into the dal.
Stir it all together, add salt to taste and finally pour in 1 and 1/4 cups of unsweetened coconut milk, fresh or canned.
Warm it a bit, and you're done. This is an amazingly earthy, hearty dish. All you need is this, a vegetable and a bowl of rice and you have an economical, fast and tasty meal. This recipe will serve 6 people and it's even better the next day... that is if there's any left over!
  With recipes like this, it's no wonder Mrs. K M Matthews was such a culinary legend. So if you don't already serve dal at home, this is a great recipe to start with. Dal is not just for dinners out anymore.
  Coming next, the perfect rice dish that's a perfect partner for this dal you can follow me on Twitter @kathygori.This is also an exciting weekend for me, I'll be taking my new waffle iron for a test run (I thrill easily) and experimenting with some gluten free waffles! I hope I don't need the jaws of life to get them out of the iron.  


  1. I'll make this. It looks fabulous!

  2. What a Fantastic Dhal Recipe. Love it. Coconut add a little Oomph to any it a dhal recipe or a dessert recipe.

  3. Oh, I feel like I can smell it from my computer screen! :D

  4. You know I adore dal, and love this pop pop pop heat!

  5. I can almost smell all the lovely spices from here.

  6. @penny aka jeroxie,
    this stuff is absolutely addictive

  7. Hey,

    Indeed tis warm and hearty...Love adding coconut to any curry...:)Lovely flavour...:)


  8. It seems best to make with fresh coconut milk for richer flavor. Thanks for the post.



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