Monday, November 26, 2007

An Inauthentic Dal

Some women shop for shoes. I shop for spices, pulses and grains. Sometimes it’s a little overwhelming to open the pantry and wonder when, exactly, you were planning to use them all. Never met a pulse I didn’t like. A half-filled jar of mung beans, the result of a failed sprouting attempt, needed emptying in an effort to wrestle back some semblance of control. Mangy-looking sprouts sold in supermarkets and one, delicious, meal of kichidi aside, I’ve not cooked or eaten mung beans nearly as often as their nutritional profile suggests one should. Moong dal is one of the few foods considered tridoshic in Ayurvedic medicine; a protein- and fibre-rich, easy-on-the-digestion, no-soaking required, all-rounder of a bean. Why, I wondered, haven’t I been cooking a pot of them at least once a week?

A large portion of Saturday morning, post voting and a half-hearted attempt at weeding, was spent faffing on the computer. Fool. The weather was stellar, but there I sat, sucked into a vortex of food related searches. Three hours passed, trawling the internet mindlessly and nothing, not one, single, useful thing had been achieved. Not exactly my intended Saturday. Frustrated, I switched the damn thing off, found a wide-brimmed hat and headed outside with Marion Halligan and Mark Bittman tucked under my arm.


‘Mung Bean Dal with Apples, Coconut and Mint’, from Bittman, sounded revolting, not least because half a cup of mint is, in my opinion, only really useful in a teapot. Bittman’s is a fairly broad use of the word dal, but it is worth noting that there are nearly as many dals as there are cooks. His suggested ‘twist’ - ditching the apples for carrots and the shredded coconut in favour of cashews - sounded interesting. And those mung beans had already lost their coveted spot. The result, with a few changes, is a surprisingly delicate moong dal with enough of the elements of Keralan cuisine to take your tastebuds on a nice little trip to tropical southern India. I can’t tell you how light and lovely this is, odd and inauthentic though its various components seem.


Having wasted Saturday morning, wasting the afternoon shopping would not have been wise. That is the beauty of a well-stocked pantry. A few handfuls of less-than-perfect spinach wilted through at the end and a palmful of curry leaves, retrieved from the very back of the freezer, rounded things out nicely. Two limes from the grocer next door were the only shopping required. One for the recipe, to cut through the coconut milk and the other for slicing into a celebratory Cointreau later in the evening. Sipped whilst dancing (badly) and messaging like-minded friends, a bit further away than I’d like them to be.


Mung dal with cashews and carrots – for 4-6

Adapted from this book. A highly delicious way to eat a highly nutritious little wonder-bean. Great with basmati rice spiced with a tablespoon of mustard seeds, carefully popped in a little hot oil moments before serving. Mustard seeds aid the digestion of beans – I do love the ancient, noble wisdom of Ayurveda.

1 ½ cups of whole mung beans (moong dal, yellow dal)
½ cup of raw cashews
3-4 medium-sized carrots, chopped
A large knob of ginger, peeled and finely grated (about 2 tablespoons)
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
8-10 curry leaves (optional)
½ teaspoon of turmeric
1-2 dried red chillies
1 x 400g (15oz) tin of coconut milk
1 ½ tablespoons of brown sugar or agave syrup
1 teaspoon of sea salt
A handful or two of spinach leaves
1 lime
1 long green chilli, thinly sliced (to garnish)

Basmati rice (see above), to serve

Pick over the beans very well. Pebbles and other stray bits will do your teeth no end of damage and this also gives you a chance to discard any damaged or shrunken beans. Soak the beans in a bowl of water while you prepare the other ingredients. I’m never sure of the age of mine, so a short soaking means they will cook, perfectly, within the allocated time.

Drain the beans and place them, along with the cashews, carrots, ginger, garlic, curry leaves, turmeric, chillies, coconut milk and sugar in a large, heavy-based saucepan (a Dutch oven is perfect). Add enough water to cover by 10 cms (4 inches) and bring slowly to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and partially cover with a lid.

Simmer for 45-60 minutes, stirring and checking the water from time to time (I keep a hot kettle of water by the stove to top things up). The beans must be absolutely tender before adding the salt, stirring through the spinach and squeezing in the juice of the lime.

When the spinach has wilted, ladle out over bowls of basmati rice and garnish with the slices of hot, green chilli.


So, I’ve earmarked some shelf space and washed out a new jar. Mung beans will be back. Might just be making that delicious coriander and garlic-laced kichidi again, too.

This week Weekend Herb Blogging is being hosted by Kalyn, creator of this popular, weekly blogging event.


31 comments:

Kim said...

Cooking with beans, lentils and pulses is something I only do sporadically and on doing so always chastise myself I don't do it more often. These sound wonderfully fragrant. And the notion of a 'grocer nextdoor' which sells limes is deeply comforting indeed.

Kalyn said...

It does sound very tasty, and I've never cooked mung beans, even once! I must give them a try. I agree with you, I love all the members of the bean/lentil family.

Anh said...

Lucy, what a treat!!! The photos are so wonderful, and better still, the recipe sounds fab. I am defenitely gonna try this!

Johanna said...

Sounds lovely - it is ages since I made dahl - must do it again soon! And I like the sound of the Bittman cookbook - will look out for it.

VegeYum @ A Life (Time) of Cooking said...

Fabulous photos again. You always treat us to such a visual delight. I also have a shelf full of spices and one full of lentils and beans. And SIX varieties of rice. I mean, really. Today I bought more black mustard seeds (a huge pack - I love them) and coriander seeds. Going to the Indian Bazaar was the highlight of my day.

Nora B. said...

Lucy,
I love everything about this post, the story, the photos and of course the recipe. I also never met a pulse that I didn't like. If only they are quicker to cook, I would have them more than once per week.

Sophie said...

I'm always "losing" half a saturday to my laptop, then getting cross with myself for doing it...

This sounds really good Lucy - I definitely agree with your flavour tweaks. Are you enjoying Mark Bittman's veggie book in general? (have to ask as I have asked my Mum for a copy for christmas without being able to have a look at it first!)

kate said...

This looks delicious and doesn't sound too difficult to make! Perfect for the weather here right now...

Callipygia said...

Yes, it is so frustrating to lose yourself in the computer in search of that perfect recipe, esp. on a gorgeous day! I love dal in any form and I do swear I feel more balanced afterwards. Plus it is great fun to say the word "mung".

Lisa said...

Thanks for this recipe Lucy. I frequently enjoy mung beans and am always on the lookout for creative ideas to expand the menu. Legumes are a joy to cook with and the taste and nutritional benefits are incomparable.

Christina said...

Beautiful. That photo of the light sifting through the beans took my breath away.

I'm a big fan of beans myself, but I've never cooked mung beans. This is inspirational though, so I'll have to give it a try soon.

Have you ever replaced the water with good coconut milk when you've made basmati rice? I love it's nutty, creamy, sweet-goodness, especially when whatever dal or other topping I have is very spicy.

I hope you've had a lovely day.

Lisa said...

Seems to me our tastes are in line with one another's. In case you are interested, here are a few mung recipes I have posted so far.

Lucy said...

Kim, you have no idea how good it is to have a grocer, literally, next door. I'm a lucky girl, I tell ya.

Glad to know you're a fellow bean freak Kalyn!

Thanks Anh - you will like this. Just your sort of exotic spicing.

Johanna, the Bittman is cheap too - when you see the size of the thing, you may, like I did, see it as a positive bargain. I'd love to know how you make your dal.

SIX types of rice! Vegeyum, you and I are like two peas in the proverbial pod. We seem to go through an awful lot of mustard seeds here too!

Nora, I know what you mean about the soaking. Aduki bens and lentils get cooked a lot more often in this kitchen than chickpeas - they do seem to need an aeon to soak...

Sophie, you'll love it. It's got, for me, the right mix of odd and traditional recipes. He, Bittman, is a bit boring...but the book is wonderful. I won't spoil it too much for you. A real treat. Those Saturdays...such a waste!

Kate - easy peasy as they say, and not too much fat surprisingly, despite the use of an entire tin of coconut milk!

Mung is a great word Callipygia. Hardly use it enough myself. Dal - if I didn't make it in some form or other at least once a week, there would be mutiny 'round here.

Lisa, you are a star - how funny that we are connected by dal. Your recipes are divine - thanks so much for highlighting them. Lucky I cleared a large space for that jar...

Thanks Christina. Sometimes I have a little leap of joy when the light is just right like that. Beans are such a staple for me that I rarely think to blog recipes for dishes with them. That will change as we edge toward the holidays and all that rich, delicious food. I find myself desperate for lentils whenever I've overdone it; my comfort food.

Rosa said...

Authentic or inauthentic, I love dal! Thanks for this recipe. I can so relate to wasting hours on the computer. It's something I try to avoid doing on weekends, too.

Sophie said...

Thanks Lucy - fingers crossed for Santa :-)

winedeb said...

Hey Lucy, as usual I am a late commer to comment. Why? Because I so enjoy visiting your spot with great stories, recipes and photos. I like to read it over and over. So, I am glad you spend time on your computer!!!
I have never tried mung beans and will probably have to order them as I have never seen them here. Are they like lima beans? They sound like one of the more heathful beans out there. The whole dish sounds so interesting that I must round up the ingredients and have a go at it! Hope you enjoyed the rest of your weekend outdoors!

katiez said...

I used to try to figure out why I am only comfortable with enough food in my pantry to outlast a month long blizzard. I conceded defeat long ago and just accept that I do it.
I love the sound of your mung bean dal, authentic or not!

Wendy said...

What did you dance to I wonder? I've spent many a Saturday night doing exactly the same. :)
Have bookmarked this one. Adore dals (dhals?) but haven't tried using mungbeans yet.

Susan said...

I just want to take a bowl of this up in my hands and slurp it right down, never mind the rice or a fork. Just beautiful, one photo after the next.

I've always found dal pulses very quick to cook; I never, ever soak them. Chickpeas, on the other hand, I never, ever get right, so I open a can.

Rachael said...

Such lovely photos (as always!)

And Mung Bean Dal....mmmmm...

Cynthia said...

Dal is one of my favourite dishes.

A scientist in the kitchen said...

We have mung bean here but not cooked like that. Looks good!

Gretchen Noelle said...

This is inspiring! I have a dish or two that I love mung beans in. I shall have to get some soon to try your recipe and mine!

Lucy said...

Rosa, I think I'm going to have to emove myself from the computer full-stop on weekends...love dal's, especially as they are both cheap and adaptble.

Crossing mine for you too Sophie!

Deb, that's so very sweet! Thing is I wasn't doing ANY work. You know, mung beans are much smaller than lima's - bout the size of pea - and pack a powerful nutritional punch. The fact that they are so easy on your digestion makes them really healthy. Rest of my weekend? Computer-free bliss!

Me too Katie - and the funniest thing is that I will never, ever be stuck inside for an entire month. My mission is to clear out all the stuff that's near to use-by date before Christmas. That's the theory...

Wendy I tossed up spelling it 'Dhal', which is the way I usually spell it, but Bittman spelled it 'Dal' and I gave up (easily) after that! I was dancing to the sweet sounds of an out of touch, ex-Prime Minister's farewell speech. My best friend who, sadly, lives in Sydney was at a Communist Party party and we were text messaging each other and loving it!

Susan, if I didn't have a pressure cooker I doubt that I would cook legumes from scratch. It's a brilliant, brilliant addition to my cuisine batterie and to be honest, has saved me quite a lot of dosh too. Now if I could just package up a bowl or two and express them to N.Y....

Rachel, thanks! Mmmm....indeed!

We eat it at least once a week in some form or other, Cynthia.

Hi Scientist in the Kitchen - I'd love to know what you do with mung beans!

Welcome Gretchen! I hope you'll share how you prepare mung beans - I'm totally hooked now.

cassie said...

Oh Lucy, this is absolutely beautiful... the writing and the recipe. I will be trying this after I try your equally fabulous sounding Moroccan Pumpkin. Thanks so much for sharing.

Wendy said...

I was expecting you to say Primal Scream or something! Thanks for making a rather dull evening more interesting. :)

bee said...

have you tried sprouting the mung beans? i always do.
looks lovely.

Anna Haight said...

Ah Lucy, you've saved my life. I have been given an Ayurvedic diet, which stipulates I should eat mung dal and basmati rice every day, but I had no idea how to cook mung bean dal! I have the beans, now I know what to do with them! Thanks!

Lucy said...

Cassie, you are very welcome. And welcome at my table, ANY time.

Wendy, I do love me a bit of Bobby Gillespie, but sadly, my days of dancing to real music are over!!

Hi Bee, I did try. To no avail. Will try again!

Hi Anna - check out Lisa's comment earlier on here. Lisa has a wealth of mung recipes, many of them (actually, all of them) Ayurvedically-balanced (and delicious too!). Enjoy.

Suganya said...

Apples in dal is unheard of... Well all part of fusion confusion. Whole mung is hearty. They make the best sprouts IMO. Winter or summer, that is one inviting bowl. While you are at it, try different rice varieties, you will be surprised how different they taste.

spacedlaw said...

I had to laugh wehn reading your addiction for shopping. We have the same...
Thanks for the recipe. it sounds wonderful and dead esay too!