To anyone who knows Hindi, I guess the name of this dish would sound somewhat strange, because "dal-chawal" means literally "pulses-rice". In a more figurative sense "dal-chawal" is also used to describe basic everyday necessary food - like the term "daily bread".
I think I'm not getting this across very well, so I'm going to stop trying. Besides, if I havent made myself understood yet, more babble is hardly likely to encourage comprehension.
I call it dal-chawal pulao, however, because I couldnt come up with a better name for it. Besides, the main ingredients are as basic as that - dal (brown lentils in this case) and Basmati chawal. Add to it a cupful of sliced shallots and some spices - and you get a pulao that's extraordinarily tasty. I couldnt believe it myself, really. The aroma and the taste were addictive.
In fact, although Pete had alu-matar with it, I ended up eating just the pulao, spoonful by spoonful. I loved the taste and texture of the brown lentils - they cooked quite quickly but retained their shape beautifully even though technically I overcooked it. Any other dal would have turned to mush, but not my lovely brown lentils.
Um, actually they could be green lentils. I'm not sure what they're called... but you can see from the photo that they're a greyish colour when dry, turn somewhat green when soaked for a couple of hours, and cook to a dark shiny brown. Chameleon lentils, perhaps? :)
Recipe for: Dal-chawal pulao
1/2 cup green or brown lentils, soaked for 2-3 hours
1 cup good-quality basmati rice, soaked for 15 minutes
1/2 cup shallots, sliced thin
2 bay leaves
1 black cardamom pod, slightly crushed
1" piece cinnamon stick
3-4 fresh green chillies, split lengthwise
1 tsp grated ginger
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tbsp oil (or ghee, for a richer flavour)
Salt to taste
2 cups water
1. Two-three hours before you make the pulao, soak the lentils in water.
2. Wash the basmati rice 3-4 times, then let it soak for about 15 minutes, while the shallots and dal are spiced.
3. In a wide, heavy-bottomed pan with a lid, heat 1 tbsp oil. Add the cardamom pod, cinnamon stick, bay leaves and slit green chillies and fry for about a minute on high heat, stirring often.
3. Now add the shallots and grated ginger and stir fry on medium heat till the shallots are soft and turning pale brown. Stir in the coriander powder.
4. Drain the brown lentils and add to the shallots, mixing well.
Pour in 1/4 cup water, turn down the heat to medium-low, and cover the pan. Cook the lentils for about 10 minutes.
5. Turn up the heat to high and add the soaked, drained Basmati rice. Stir it all about for a couple of minutes. Add salt to taste and stir again.
6. Pour in 1-3/4 cups water and bring to a rolling boil.
Then turn down the heat to low, cover the pan again and cook for 15 minutes undisturbed.
7. Check the rice now to see if the water has been absorbed. If it has all been absorbed but the rice looks underdone, sprinkle 3-4 tbsp water, cover the pan again and cook for another 5-7 minutes.
8. Turn off the heat and let the pulao sit covered for 10 minutes before fluffing it with a fork. (Remove the whole spices and the bay leaves now, unless you like biting into them!) Serve hot with any curry.