However you write it, you can’t go wrong with a good dal. It’s one of those things that lovers of Indian vegetarian food keep going back to, not just because it is very easy and quick to make, but because it’s delicious, and it’s one of those dishes that by adding your own touches, you can easily make your own version.
I came across this article in the Guardian last week, different variations on the dal theme, followed by a recipe chosen with all the best features from the other recipes.
My recommendation would be to give it a read and gave a go with the final recipe in the article to give you an idea what a dal is actually like before you start to experiment. The caramelised shallots and/or garlic at the end really make it pop.
One excellent tip, from Hervé This’ Molecular Gastronomy– if you have hard water (and ours is so hard it wears a leather jacket and carries a knife), add a pinch of bicarbonate of soda – this helps soften the lentils and makes the dal more creamy.
Dal makes for a great first-course or side dish. Like all soups or stews, it seems to improve with an overnight stay in the fridge. We served our left-over dal in rolled up pancakes (crepes, not American pancakes). There is something special about how the sweetness of the crepe works with the savoury, spiciness of the dal. Left over curry in pancakes is always good mind you!