Krishna Dutta's book is the perfect guide to the dals of the Indian sub-continent, presenting over 50 recipes for classic dals and other regional pulse dishes, from Tamil toor dal and coconut gram dal to sambar and paruppu thogayal.
Krishna Dutta made a guest appearance at the first British Dal Festival in 2018, where she spoke about her life-long love of dal and cooked up a simple but sublime everyday chana dal.
Dal is to India what pasta is to Italy. Cheap to produce, highly nutritional, suitable for long storage and capable of being cooked in a basic pot on an open fire, dal has been providing nourishment to millions of Indians for millennia. It truly is a pan-Indian dish consumed by rich and poor alike. It is high protein and has practically no sugar – in fact it is known as ‘poor man’s meat’ in India – hence doctors now include this as an essential item in a diet for diabetics.
Dal is a genuinely impressive dish of infinite variety – there are at least 50 recipes for this humble food. There are multiple ways of cooking it, wide-ranging seasonings are used and there are diverse supplements to serve with it.
Over the centuries Indian cooks became innovative and with locally available ingredients they dished out dal to satisfy a regional palate. In the process they also invented new dishes using dal lentils such as kedgeree (khichari – a risotto made with lentil), dosas (pancakes mixed with lentil flower), vadas (lentil cakes), dhokla (baked lentil cakes), papadam (dried lentil snack) and pakoras (fritters dipped in lentil batter).