I eat a lot of dal. It’s my go-to cheap, vegetarian midweek dinner. Oh, and it’s healthy too. And ever since my mum gave me a pressure cooker, it can all be cooked in under 30 minutes. I love it, but I can also be pretty pedestrian with it, typically just cooking down moong dal with ginger, garlic, onion and then flavouring with a tarka of cumin seeds and green chilli. This is tasty, but there is now a new dal in my life – katti dal.
It’s not just my new favourite dal because it has the word cat in it. It actually tastes good too. Katti dal appears to be a Hyderabadi speciality – a city that has a fantastic food culture due to the intersection of Muslim and Hindi influences over time. The inclusion of tamarind and curry leaves in particular lift this whole dish, turning it into something that takes it far beyond a dull mid-week dinner dish.
I have made this twice now, the second time with the inclusion of courgettes and no tomatoes. Both times the results have been excellent, but the tomatoes are definitely a necessity for me – the sweetness nicely offsets the tartness of the tamarind.
Whilst I would typically have this with rice, second time around I had it with fried idli. Now, I could wax lyrical about the wonder of idlis (South Indian steam rice flour cakes) for a long time, and I was so happy when I finally got my hands on some idli moulds so I could make my own at the weekend. Obviously I made way too many, hence the frying up of these tasty morsels, turning them from something pretty healthy, into something a bit less healthy. But that combination of crunchy exterior and soft interior dipped into that tangy dal was a thing of wonders, wonders I tell you!
Khatti dal – makes around 4 servings
1 cup toor/toover or moong dal
1 inch piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
5 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1/2tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
2 tomatoes, finely chopped
1tsp tamarind concentrate (I use concentrate as it’s much less of a faff compared to soaking tamarind in water)
For the tarka:
2tbsp groundnut oil
2tsp cumin seeds
1tsp mustard seeds
10 curry leaves
2 finger chillies, finely chopped
Small handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped
Salt to taste
1. Combine your dal with the turmeric and chilli powders, garlic, ginger and tomato in a saucepan, with enough water to cover the dal by around 2cm. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for around 45 minutes – until the dal is competely soft and almost disintegrated. Alternatively, stick it all in a pressure cooker, bring up to pressure and cook for a further 15 mins.
2. Once cooked, give it a stir and add more water if it’s very thick, to get it down a texture slightly thicker than double cream. Keep it on a low-medium heat and add the tamarind, stir to combine.
3. In a small frying pan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Once hot, add the cumin and mustard seeds. Once the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the chopped chillies and curry leaves. After they have sizzled for about 20 seconds, pour the contents over the dal in the saucepan. Stir to combine, and cook for a further couple of minutes. Season to taste, stir in the coriander and serve.
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