Before I begin the recipe for Amma’s Biryani Dhal Curry (Lentil Curry), I would like to thank you, dear reader, for your continued support during my four year hiatus. The reason for which was the birth of my son, four years ago which altered the path of my life in more ways than one. All of which are trivial at the present time, in the wake of the Corona Virus (COVID-19) and its global impact. Due to restrictions in my home city I am working from home. This ’time out’ has enabled me time to reflect and reminisce. Being away from family I take comfort in the fond childhood memories of Amma’s recipes and frugal ways that bind us together. If you too are in ‘lockdown’, wondering what to do with that bag of lentils…why not try Amma’s Lentil Curry.
Having grown upon a farm, the nearest town was a good few kilometers away, Amma always shopped at month end, with enough supplies to last up to month at a time. This usually included plenty of meat, canned foods like tin fish and sardines, and dried beans and lentils, spices, along with large quantities of flour, oil, sugar and rice while nearly all fresh produce came for our garden. My favourite memory of shopping was unpacking everything into glass bottles and containers for easy reach. This method is useful for long term storage and helps keep moths at bay. I usually cut out the cooking times and expiry date on packaging and place it inside storage jars.
One of Amma’s ‘contingency’ ingredients, to be used when nothing else was available was ‘biryani dhal’ (lentils), Biryani Dhal curry with boiled eggs or potatoes. I love lentils because they are so versitile, they can be used for Lentil Curry or even to make Veggie Burgers or as added protien to salads. Best of all they are easy to store and long lasting.
Biryani Dhal curry is essentially a Lentil curry made from brown lentils (a typical ingredient in South African Biryani). Like Amma, I place the lentils on a tray then sift through to remove stones. I boil the lentils for at least 30 minutes then let it soak in the remaining water to soften. The cooking process itself is simple, like all Amma’s curries it involves braising onion, tomato, ginger and garlic and spices before adding cooked lentils for a simple yet hearty meal. I recommend grating the tomato for a thick saucy texture. Simply soak the tomato in boiled water in order to remove the peel before grating. For a more ‘decadent’ version, add cream at the end stagem just before removing from stove.
How to Boil Lentils
For this recipe you can use canned lentils or boil your own. I recommend the latter mainly because it is cheaper and easier to store.
Lentil (Biryani Dhal) Curry Recipe
Prep time: 10 minutes
Total time: 90 minutes
Yield: serves 4
- 1 cup brown lentils (biryani dhal)
- 1 cup of water (for soaking lentils)
- 2.5 cups water (for boiling lentils)
- 1 onion
- 1 tablespoon ginger and garlic paste
- 2 tablespoons ghee or cooking oil
- 1 teaspoon garamasala
- 1 tablespoon masala for vegetable curry or chilli powder
- 1 cup water
- 1 tomato (to be grated) or one tablespoon tomato paste
- optional: potatoes or boiled eggs , cream
1. Prepare the lentils, first remove stones or other unwanted pieces. Rinse in a colander. Soak in a cup of water for 30 minutes or so. Drain water.
2. Add 2.5 cups of water to a pot. Add lentils. Boil for 30 minutes. Turn stove off let lentils soak in pot for 30 minutes.
3. Slice onions. Add to oil in a pan. Fry until slightly brown. Add ginger and garlic paste and spices.
4. Braise for 2-3 minutes on medium heat.
5. Add grated tomato. (optional – add potatoes at this stage).
6. Add lentils.
7. Add a cup of water
8. Simmer on low heat for 30 minutes until a thick sauce like texture forms.
9. For boiled eggs simply boil eggs, peel then add to cooked lentil curry. Remove from stove.
10. Serve with Roti or Rice or simply enjoy with a green salad.