Friday, February 18, 2011


When I left Sri Lanka to find a job in the country my father had been working for the previous 20-plus years (Sharjah, UAE), my mother packed me off with one recipe – for dhal (or parippu as we Sinhalese call it).
From that one recipe, I had to learn to cook everything else as had my father before me.
Every Sri Lankan household seems to have its own way of cooking dhal. My mother’s involved adding a stock cube, frying up onions with garlic and ginger and doing a lot of stirring. This recipe, called Dhal White Curry, adapted from Chandra Dissanayake’s Ceylon Cookery takes much less effort.

What you’ll need:
Green chillies
* 250g red lentils, washed and drained
* 2 green chillies, sliced or chopped
* 1 ½ teaspoons salt
* 1 small onion (I used a brown onion), sliced
* ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
* 1x 400ml can coconut cream and 1 cans-worth of water (add more water if you want the curry to be less creamy, but I like this consistency).
* ½ cup coconut cream extra

For tempering/or adding a bit of zing
* 1-2 tablespoons oil
* 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
* 5-6 dried red chillies, broken up (or less chilli for those with non-zing palates)
* 2 sprigs curry leaves
* 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped/crushed

What to do:
 Boil lentils with half the sliced onions, green chillies and curry leaves along with all of the turmeric, 400ml coconut cream and can’s worth of water. Lentils boil fast, so if you don’t want a porridge like consistency, take it off the fire while the grain still holds its shape.
Once off the fire, add salt and leave aside until this next bit is done: Heat oil in mini frypan. When hot, add remaining curry leaves, sliced onions, dried red chillies broken into bits and mustard, fry until onions are golden brown and mustard begins to crackle.
Then take off fire and add garlic. Leave for a few minutes for garlic to ‘cook’ before adding fried mixture to dhal, with the remaining coconut cream. Bring to a boil and take off fire.
Note: Red lentils can be substituted with yellow split peas for a less mushy curry.

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