Dal - consistency question
- Coyote Mar 2, 2005 01:16 PM
I just made the Nigella Lawson red lentil and sweet potato dal recipe from today's NYT. Very happy with the flavor, but it is REALLY soupy. She says to cook a little longer if necessary but I am not quite sure what level of soupy versus stewy I am aiming for. I'd need to serve it in a bowl at this point, I'd hate to cook out all the texture of the vegetables, but am wondering if dal isn't more typically served on a plate.
i haven't made this recipe, but in my experience, dal is a thick soup. yes it's served on a plate, but it spreads along the plate with the rice keeping it in check. it's mostly about personal preference with dal i think- i tend to eat mine in a bowl. if you do cook it longer, watch out because it gets thick very fast, and thick lumpy lentil mush is not palatable (think lentil loafs like a vegetarian meat loaf. yuck)
i just checked the picture out on nyt, and it certaily looks all lumpy and thick. but when she describes it in her column, she says the dal is pooled up in the middle of the rice. that lumpy stuff in the picture wouldn't make any sort of nice pool in rice, so perhaps it was done for the sake of esthetics rather than taste?
in my experience, red lentil dal can be eaten after about 40 minutes, but it benefits from an hour's cooking. simmer it for a bit longer. as thejulia says, it will cross some kind of threshold and thicken. if you make a lot of dal you can start to recognize this transition. it is watery and soupy for most of its cooking time, and then suddenly it all comes together. Stir it a lot to keep it from getting lumpy.
Dal is one of those things that varies WIDELY - in India, I had it so soupy it was watery, as well as so thick it was a side dish. Sounds like maybe Nigella's recipe is trying to be in between.
It really depends on the recipe. Some dals are meant to be extra soupy, while others can be eaten with a fork.
Cook it how you like! Indian cooking is not meant to be precise or uniform. My mom's and wife's dhal is always a little bit different every time.
I usually eat masoor (red lentil) dhal in a bowl with roti/chappati and lemon/mango achar (pickle). But if there is rice on hand I like to put the dhal on the rice in a plate.
BTW, sweet potato in dhal? Interesting. It is not something that appeal to me.
A few tricks:
1) Start with less water than your recipe calls for. If the dish starts looking more dry than you want it, add a little boiling water.
2) Dal thickens up if you refridgerate it overnight, and the texture becomes smoother. Unfortunately it loses color too.
3) With a very very liquidy dal, you can let it rest for a few minutes away from the burner, then ladle off the clear liquor from the top. The clear stuff is a nice restorative drink for the cook, and the remaining dal is stirred up for a thicker consistency.