xmlns:fb='http://www.facebook.com/2008/fbml' Trinidad Dhal....and a story about Grandma

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Trinidad Dhal....and a story about Grandma

Dhal is to Trinidad what split pea soup is to the rest of the world. It is eaten over a mound of rice or with roti and when I feel like it, I drink it hot from a tea cup. When it comes to food, there are no rules, just desires and "healthy" appetites. This dish is savory, simple, nutritious and so cheap to make!

As a child, the minute I arrived home from primary school, I would run to my grandma’s kitchen where she would always have my favorite waiting for me. A plate of dhal with bits of roti soaked in it.
Even now, everytime I see dhal I immediately remember those precious times I spent with my first best friend. We would sit for hours on the stairs talking...I loved removing her "orhni" which wrapped her head and combed and braided her hair which was always moist with coconut oil. Back then, coconut oil was the choice of hair strengthener, stlying product and skin moisturizer amongst the old folks. Bring back the coconut oil I say!![ok, back to my story..]

I went everywhere with grandma...including to her garden after school....and on weekends she took me to the market with my very own small wicker market basket. A smaller version of hers. This could quite possibly be when my love affair with the market started. I will never forget the day grandma told me sadly, "Betee [Hindi for daughter], I don't think I will live to see your birthday.." and she was right. Grandma died on my 10th birthday but her memory lives happily in my heart...and a plate of dhal is my eternal connection to her...
In my opinion, dhal is one of the healthiest meals you can eat since it contains four power ingredients, split peas, turmeric, garlic and cumin, five if you count the olive oil! Split peas is high in fiber, B vitamins and minerals while turmeric is one of the most powerful natural healers. It contains curcumin which has anti carcinogenic, anti inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Cumin helps with digestive disorders and is a great antioxidant also. The primary job of antioxidants is to protect your cells against the oxidative stress caused by free radicals, which is considered to be the primary cause of the aging process. Need I say more? These are just a few of the many health benefits, so do your body a favor and make a pot of dhal today…!

For many years, I could never get my Dhal right, adding too much turmeric, excessive or not enough water. My sense of “average” always seemed to be wrong…Now that problem has been solved.....Cooking with Ria[cooking with myself] has forced me to make it numerous times to come up with the exact measurement to give you a great dish of dhal everytime. Oh how I wish I had this recipe when I had started my cooking journey! 

I have seen recipes requiring only 2 cups of water which just didn't work for me.. could it be because of my location...the temperature, elevation, closeness to the ocean? who knows?....I know 5 cups work for me...and I made it again a few minutes ago, just to make sure...5 cups produce a dhal which is not too thick and not too runny....start with 5 and decide which direction you want to go next time...

Trinidad Dhal
5 cups water
1 cup yellow split peas
1 teaspoon turmeric
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 teaspoon whole cumin(geera)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste (I used 1 1/2 tsp plus a pinch)
1 whole scotch bonnet or habanero pepper

Before cooking split peas, inspect them carefully, remove bad peas and any excess dirt or debris and rinse with several changes of water.
1. In a medium sized pan, add 5 cups of water and bring to a boil.
 2. Immediately add split peas, turmeric, 2 cloves of sliced, crushed or whole garlic, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt or to taste and the whole pepper.
[The pepper infuses flavor into the dhal without leaving any heat.]
Warning: Be careful not to burst it unless you like your food very spicy.
3. Bring to a boil again, cover pot and then reduce heat to low. Cook until split peas are tender.  
It takes about 60 minutes on my stove.
4. Remove whole pepper and use a swizzle stick, immersion or regular blender to create a smoother consistency. I like texture so I don't swizzle too much..........
If too much liquid has evaporated during the cooking process, add additional water as required to come to a consistency that you are satisfied with. If you like your dhal thicker, continue to boil until desired consistency. 
5.Heat oil in a small frying pan, add cumin. When it starts to sing and starts getting golden brown, add 1 clove of thinly sliced garlic and watch it dance in the hot oil (no kidding). Cook until golden brown also. Singing and dancing=happy times....
The garlic will have a bitter taste if it becomes very dark.
6. Using a pot cover to prevent oil from splashing, SLOWLY add oil, cumin and garlic to the split peas. This process is called "chunkaying" (pronounced Chung-k-ing).
...Mix well, test for salt....and adjust...
...Mix well immediately before serving warm over rice or with roti and a side of bhagi(spinach), tomatoes choka, fried fish, salmon and tomatoes, curry or stew--all up to you....

Thank you for stopping by,
Cooking with love,

..and because I also love pics of flowers, here is a pic of a gigantic hibiscus from my backyard over the summer.....


Seg said...

Another good one from a gal likes to cook.Hope i can get some of this famous dhal one day..


Anonymous said...

I loved the quick receipie, and the story, my kids loved this dhal!

Magz said...

Hahahaha Ria!!! before reading this entry I cooked a huge pot of Dhal with Rice, Tomato Choka, Bhagi and curried Lamb (all at my son's request!) and was thinking to myself - what a healthy meal (except maybe for the lamb - which tends to be fatty - no matter what you do!) - All the benefits of the Dhal as you have already mentioned, PLUS the antioxidants in the tomatoes and olive oil and the green benefits of the Bhagi (Spinach!) - needless to say, the only tiny bit left over is enough for a nice teacup of Dhal at snack time!!! Love your blog!! Love you all too!

Cooking with Ria said...

@Seg - why wait a very looong time to taste my "famous dhal" first hand when you can make it at home anytime using my recipe? don't wait, make it soon...happy cooking! ;-)

@anonymous-Thanks for your comment and for trying my recipe! I am happy to hear that your kids loved it...

@Magz-thank you, I love working on the posts for my blog...and what an exceptional meal, delicious lamb and all! Your son is very lucky! Love you too and thanks for your support...always...! :-)

Cooking with Ria said...

Thanks for this recipe! And thanks for sharing your beautiful story with us too. My grandma is also very dear and close to my heart and no one can cook like Grandma!!

Cooking with Ria said...

They surely can't! :-)

Cooking with Ria said...

I LOVE YOUR WEBSITE and all of your recipes! So beautifully photographed and just delicious! i will always refer to you when cooking trini style... ! much love from brooklyn! x

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