Friday, November 16, 2007

16.11.07: Dal Makhani

I don't think any one who knows their chutney would seriously contest the suggestion that Simply Indian offers the best curry-on-demand delivery service in our part of Sarf London . It's certainly got the most irritating Flash website (but you can order online and turn off the sound;-) You know a dish is becoming properly trendy when it appears on the Simply Indian menu and 'Dall Makhani' made it, oh, about a year ago: 'This is a very typical Punjabi dish containing black lentils, red kidney beans, butter, cream, and various spices. Makes this a wonderful, warming and tasty dish" (sic) it says. This version is no soupier than S.I.'s, or not much. Instead of lashings of butter and cream, its creamy texture is derived from a 200g block of creamed coconut.

Carlo had cooked up some black lentils, urad, that filled a 2 litre jug left and were left over in the 'fridge. Yesterday, I picked up two 400g cans of Bio Idea brand organic fagioli nero, black beans, from Fare Shares for 50p each. Overnight, I soaked probably a kilo and a quarter of red kidney beans. This morning, a geezer turned up to service my boiler, so I put the kidney beans on to cook at home while investigating a recipe via Google. Boiler and appliances duly checked, I went to Oli's and bought garlic, ginger and green chillies, plus a couple of big onions and a packet of cumin seeds (99p). I also picked up a jar of piquant red pepper paste - Kirimizi Biber Salcasi - which turned out to be a crucial ingredient of the eventual soup. And one of Oli's big round loaves, too.

Back at the Pullens Centre, I carried on simmering the red kidney beans, which need to be cooked until they're soft, for at least an hour. I minced two bulbs of fresh garlic and equal quantities of ginger and green chili, then diced and started to cook the two big onions in a generous splash of oil (Carlo left some nice Spanish olive oil), adding the minced trinity of garlic/ginger/chillis, a big fist full of each. I sprinkled probably a dessert spoonful of cumin seed and another of garam masala into the mix. Then I added two tins of plum tomatoes, a couple of dessert spoonfuls of tomato puree that was left over in the 'fridge, plus half a jar of the aforementioned red pepper paste.

To this dense red base of spicy tomato and onion, I added the pulses: first, the red kidney beans and three quarters of the cooked black lentils. Adding four litres of Marigold bouillon, I brought the soup to the boil and simmered it for ten minutes. Before blending it, I scooped out a couple of great big ladles full of the kidney beans, etc, and reserved them for later re-incorporation. Then I Gaynored soup, liquidizising it fairly thoroughly and adding a further couple of litres of liquid: creamed coconut melted in boiling water. Then I returned the reserved kidney beans and black lentils to the soup and added the two tins of black beans, with their liquid, these late additions giving texture to the soup, which I served with a swirl of yogurt soured with lemon juice .

It went very well with the regulars. Gordon and Nick were particularly enthusiastic, declaring it 'fan dabbie dosey' and 'the best soup to date' (respectively;-) My friends from the Buddhist Centre on Manor Place (here's a pic of the shrine) brought a cake, so people were encouraged to linger after a portion or two of what was generally agreed to be a pretty damn fine soup and then have a cup of tea and and slice of cake. It was all very civilised but, I must say, I only served sixteen, not counting refills. The Soup Kitchen's numbers are down on a fortnight ago, but perhaps people aren't aware that we're back in business. That should change imminently as some fresh flyers are being printed...

Talking of fresh flyers, here's Kai (eyes right), who I reckon has been the Soup Kitchen's most faithful devotee, having hardly missed a soup since we started. Here, he is waving away the camera in a futile attempt to avoid public ridicule for this pathetic, soup-related joke: a pilot ejects from his plane over dense jungle and drifts down on his parachute, guiding himself towards the one clearing he can see in the rain forest below. Too late, he realises he is about to land in the middle of a tribal gathering and, as luck would have it, he drops down smack into a great big cooking pot that's simmering over an open fire in the middle of the clearing. Whereupon, the tribal chief exclaimed, "there's a flyer in my soup!" No, you're right and I told him, Kai, you oughta be ashamed...

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