Friday, March 04, 2011

Indian Pease.

Yesterday’s post led me, not surprisingly, to a consideration of that other Indian staple we in the West know as dhal (or dall or dholl or various other spellings.) What did surprise me was that when I went in search of the word itself, it appears that it refers not to the cooked dish, but to the dried pulse that is its main ingredient – especially the pigeon pea (Cajanus indicus.) At least, that is the opinion of the Oxford English Dictionary which says dhall is ‘the pulse obtained from some leguminous plants, chiefly from the Cajan, Cajanus indicus, extensively used as an article of food in the East Indies.’

The pigeon pea probably originated in Asia, and has been cultivated by humans for millennia. It is extremely versatile. It is an important and nutritious food crop – the peas being eaten fresh, dried, canned, or sprouted, or in the form of flour, and the pods and shoots are also eaten. Not to be content with being a human food, the plant is useful as forage, cover, or nitrogen-rich green ‘manure’ crop too.

Here is the Anglo-Indian version of dhal from yesterday’s source, The Khaki Kook Book: a collection of a hundred cheap and practical recipes mostly from Hindustan, by Mary Kennedy Core, published c1917.

Dhal Bhat.
Dhal Bhat is the universal breakfast dish all over India. Prepare as for split pea curry, but omit the curry powder, if desired.
Often it is prepared by frying minced meat with the onions before the peas are added.

Split Pea Curry.
Soak the peas for two or three hours. Fry in the usual way the onion and curry powder. A teaspoonful of curry powder is enough for a cupful of soaked peas. Mix the peas with the fried mixture. Add plenty of water and cook until the peas are soft enough to mash up into a pulp. Serve with rice. An acid is desired with this curry.

Quotation for the Day.

Being pretty on the inside means you don’t hit your brother and you eat all your peas – that’s what my grandma taught me.
Lord Chesterfield.

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