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September 30, 2007

Mung-my desert island food

Last night at about 5.30pm I got a call from my sister saying she was coming over for dinner, and bringing her boyfriend and her house mate. Then mum walked in and said that she'd invited the neighbours, so suddenly we had eight for dinner so it was action stations. I can make mung dahl with eyes closed so that was an obvious choice, but we didn't have enough rice, and chapati's for that number of people with such little notice was a bit daunting. So I made those anything muffins again, this time with a handful of sunflower seeds and a few spoonfuls of cumin seeds. Very tasty-and so easy.

Mung Dahl is very versatile, inexpensive and you can keep a sackful in your kitchen so you don't ever run out. Mung are one of the most revered foods in Ayurveda, they are tridoshic, easy to digest and deeply nourishing. Unfortunately they can be a bit hard to find in the shops, get them split (often called mung dahl) rather than whole (called mung beans) or they will take a very long time to cook.

I use a pressure cooker (reduces the labour and the carbon footprint) in which case you do the same thing as below but at step five, bring it to pressure once and leave it to depressurise itself.

The basic idea is this:
  1. Saute some hardy spices in ghee (like whole seeds or pastes)
  2. Add the mung dahl (2 small handfuls per person-they swell up a lot)
  3. Add water (at least three times more water then dahl- more to count for evaporation)
  4. Add salt (it is easier to be absorbed when it is well cooked in the same pot)
  5. Bring to boil then simmer covered for twenty minutes (or until completely disintegrated)
  6. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed
  7. Add delicate spices (like powders or fresh herbs)
You can add any vegies you like at about step five depending on how long they take to cook. It took me a few goes to make good dahl and I think the common mistakes we make in the west are:
  • not enough water (it should be soupy)
  • not enough ghee (ghee helps us to taste, and counteracts the dryness)
  • not enough salt (salt brings out the flavours of the other spices)
  • not enough cooking time (there should be no whole dahl left)
I eat mung every day, and by adding different vegies and spices I never get bored of it. There are as many versions of dahl as there are people in India, so google mung dahl for more idea's. And I'll post a few more of my favourite versions.

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