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.