Saturday, August 9, 2008

Dal with Unripe Mango and Pigeon Peas

Okay, just the title of this recipe alone has my curiosity peeked. What are pigeon peas and why would anyone want to cook anything with an unripe mango? So I set out to make Unripe Mango with Pigeon Peas (khatte aam toor ki dal) from 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer.

Well, I still don't really know why pigeon peas are named the way they are, but I can tell you they they are kind of like lentils. They are yellow and usually come dried so you need to rinse them and cook them with water to hydrate them similar to other legumes. As for the unripe mango, it's not as unappealing as I first thought it might be. The mango adds some tangy flavoring which is really unique.

The recipe is long but it is actually very easy to make. It can all be thrown together once you get the mango, onions, chiles and ginger slices. Everything kind of stews and the way the flavors meld together is amazing. I used 10 chiles as suggested and it was hot! I wish I had prepared some raita (cucumber yogurt) to calm the flavors a bit, but when you eat it with rice, the rice counters some of the heat. But people who don't like things spicy may want to tone it down a bit. I think the heat in this balances well with the tart mango and the spices.

I will admit that when I took my first bite I was super proud of myself because I made something that tasted just like what I'd get at an Indian restaurant. And it was really easy! So I am excited to make a few more things from 660 Curries to see what else I can create on my own.

The book suggests serving with Basmati rice but I didn't have any so I used long grain brown rice instead. Not as authentic, but tasty and healthy all the same.

Unripe Mango with Pigeon Peas
khatte aam toor ki dal
makes 4 cups

1 cup oily or unoily skinned split yellow pigeon peas (toovar dal), picked over for stones

1 medium-size rock-firm unripe mango, peeled, seeded, and coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons Ghee or canola oil

2 teaspoon cumin seeds, 1 teaspoon left whole, 1 teaspoon ground

6 green or white cardamom pods

1 small red onion, cut in half lengthwise and thinly sliced

8 to 10 fresh green Thai, cayenne, or serrano chiles, to taste, stems removed, cut in half lengthwise, each half cut into long, thin strips (do no remove the seeds)

3 lengthwise slices fresh ginger (each 2 1/2 inches long, 1 inch wide, and 1/8 inch thick), cut into matchstick-thin strips (julienne)

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems

2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea salt

1 teaspoon coriander seeds, ground

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Place the pigeon peas in a medium-size saucepan. Fill the pan halfway with water and rinse the peas by rubbing them between your fingertips. The water will become cloudy. Drain this water. Repeat three or four times, until the water remains relatively clear, drain. Now add 3 cups water and bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium-high heat. Skim off and discard any foam that forms on the surface. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the peas are partially tender, about 10 minutes.

Add the mango and 1 cup water to the partially cooked dal. Stir once or twice, cover the pan, and continue to cook stirring occasionally, until the pigeon peas and mango are very tender, 15 to 20 minutes.

While the peas and mango are simmering, heat the ghee in a medium-size skillet over medium-high heat. Add the whole cumin seeds and the cardamom pods, and cook until the seeds turn reddish brown and the pods smell fragrant, 5 to 10 seconds. Then add the onion, chiles, and ginger, and stir-fry until the onion is lightly browned and the chiles are pungent, 3 to 5 minutes.

Add the cilantro, salt, the ground cumin, coriander and turmeric. Stir-fry until the ground spices are cooked, about 1 minute. Set aside.

Transfer half the cooked pigeon peas, mango, and cooking water to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour this creamy blend into a bowl. Repeat with the remaining peas, mango, and water. Return all the puree to the saucepan. (If you have an immersion blender, you can puree all the peas, mango, and water right in the saucepan.)

Scrape the contents of the skillet into the dal, and bring it to a boil over medium heat. Then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pan, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the dal absorbs the flavors, 5 to 8 minutes. Then serve.

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