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When is the perfect dhal not the perfect dhal?

When you use completely the wrong lentils, of course!

I thought it was time for another go at one of Felicity Cloake's 'perfect' recipes - where she tries out a number of ways to make a particular dish, then whittles the best bits down into one uber recipe.

This time, it was dhal (or dal, if you like) that was calling out to me.

"Simmmer very gently for about 1½ hours, stirring occasionally, until the dal has broken down completely and become creamy," says Cloake. Two hours and a few pot peekings later, there's a distinctly un-broken-down, un-creamy dal in front of me.

I give it another 15 minutes, with a bonus chilli signing in. Same problem: the lentils are like teenagers at a family party - they show no signs of mingling. It's at this point I realise that there's a reason for this culinary failure - Cloake recommends using mung dhal, and I've used channa. Turns out they may look similar, but there's a world of difference between those two bad boys.


That was my first fail. The second was deviating from the recipe.

'You know what this would taste better with?' I thought. 'Asofoetida. And coriander. And stock instead of water. Sod it, why not a few handfuls of spinach as well?'

Guess what? It doesn't. There's a reason these recipes are called 'how to cook the perfect [dish]'. They're not called 'how to cook the almost perfect [dish]' or the 'Ignore this recipe if you want to make a perfect [dish]' or a 'want to cook the perfect [dish]? Hey, go crazy, use your own recipe - you probably know better anyway'.

Yeah, that's a lesson learnt, I'd say.

Still, next time I want to make a perfect dhal, I know where to get the recipe. And now, I know where to get the lentils, too.

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3 comments

  1. Thanks for sharing Felicity's series, I always love reading stuff like that!

    Ahh yes, channa and mung dahl. I've been down a similar road before (though not the same), and have had an embarrassing amount of bad dahl experiences. Which is tragic because good dahl is REALLY good.

    On the plus side, you got a pretty picture of your less-than-perfect dahl. :)

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  2. haha! Mung is a world away from chana - i.e.. one takes 5 minutes to breakdown the other quite a lot longer...well now you now. Sure it would taste nice anyway. Dals never need a stock though - that's the spicing, otherwise I think flavours would become too muddled.

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  3. This posting made me smile. We've all been there grabbed a wrong item, put a bit too much of something in our recipe. The Dhal you made looks pretty good on my end. I wish this screen was taste o vision because it sounds like it would hit the spot.

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