Monday, September 4

Making Dhal

So tonight I tried my hand at cooking.

I'll let you pick yourselves up off the floor before I continue.

Back? Anyway, since the main reason (or excuse depending on your view) I've never made a meal is the lack of access I have to our kitchen, I thought I'd grab the chance to use it while the main gatekeeper was away. Since it was my first real go (ever) I thought I'd try something straightforward and on asking friends it seemed that Dhal would be a bulletproof choice. Note use of the word "seemed".

I followed the instructions my friend had provided. Now I did initially mention that it looked a bit ambitious (if only because it required three separate pans!), but was convinced to give it a try anyway. And if I'm honest it did appear very straightforward... but then these things always seem easier on paper than they really are.

I started out at around 8pm, hunting for ingredients. Thanks to my sister-in-law and the magic of video calling, I managed to find our existing stash of oil and spices. The recipe also required a chili, ginger, garlic, a tomato and an onion. Thankfully the freezer had them all bar the onions, and since that was the only ingredient missing I decided to skip it altogether. By the time I had found all the pots and pans I needed, 45 minutes had already passed. Still, I was finally ready to begin.

Unlike other chores and household jobs (like cleaning, painting or building a cupboard or table), cooking is very subjective. For example, this recipe had instructions like "add salt" and "boil dhal till cooked". Now these things may make sense to the veteran cook (and perhaps those with basic common sense), but as a pretty logical and literal person they meant nothing to me. I mean, how much salt was I supposed to add? And I already know I need to wait till the dhal is cooked before it's ready (a truism if I ever saw one), but when the hell does that happen?

So yes, it all became a bit of a hit and miss affair. Still, 30 or so minutes later I managed to finish with something that resembled food. I was drained by then and so just plumped for toast as the staple. I sat down to enjoy my home cooked meal.

Except that it was still raw. I noticed that straight away, it was that apparent. In the bin that batch went, but I still had loads left in the pan (luckily I had overestimated the amount of dhal I needed), and I whacked that back on the boil. This time I wasn't going to take any chances - I was going to leave it on for 30 minutes minimum. I figured that it was better to have it well cooked than not at all.

I finally managed to eat properly at around 10:15pm. The food was much better, but still a bit iffy - good enough for a first try I think, although I'll let you know if I have any stomach troubles tomorrow. At least the house was still standing, which for many of my so-called-friends is a result in itself. Pictures of the final result and the actual cooking itself are on my Picasa.

Cooking really is very much an art, and there are very few definitives when creating a meal. That probably comes as no surprise but it does mean that practice and experience both lead to being a better cook. Still, unlike some other things it's not something I can do straight off, especially with my distinct lack of culinary patience, and I think I'll be struggling for a while before I become comfortable in the kitchen.

Not a great experience overall, but then not too painful either (although again, I'll let you know if anything happens on the bog tomorrow). I guess I'd have been very lucky (or gifted) if it had all gone smoothly on my first bat. Still, at least I've had my cooking fix while I could; I don't think I'm going to experiment anymore for a while.

By the way, does anyone know how to clean non-stick pans? Don't worry, I know about not scrubbing them (I'm a much better dishwasher than I am cook), and I haven't ruined anything. I soaked them in liquid and left them for an hour or so, and then rinsed and wiped them down with kitchen towel. It's just that I don't think that they're as clean as they were when I found them. But then again it's not like I'm going to use them any time soon so perhaps it doesn't matter anyway.


  1. aww don't give up now shakil, it's so much fun ...well for us anyway ;)

    i hope you've learnt your lesson that you can't substitute toor daal for red split lentils, in much the same way that you can't substitute salmon for chicken. it takes 30/40 minutes for toor daal to cook through, and about 10 minutes for red split lentils. no wonder it was raw!

  2. Anonymous21:33

    lol I can't imagine what lentils without onions tastes like to be honest. Well done though, at least your tried, lol

    Maybe leaving the pans to soak with fairy and boiled water from the kettle might make them idea. Goodluck lol.

  3. the colour looked right :)

  4. you need one pan to boil the daal in with the turmeric and green chilli, one to cook the onions, tomatoes and ginger in a bit of oil, and a small pan to do the vaghar with the spices and garlic.

    you could bung everything into one pan and just use a separate pan for the vaghar but i think it tastes better this way.

  5. wow, i havent tried making dhaal yet.

    what the hell is toor dhal and baghar and vaghar and and and gosh you people are making it sound so difficult.

    ditto can u make a curry without onions? THATS supposed to be THE MAIN ingredient isnt it?