Sunday, November 25, 2012

Trinidad Style Split Pea Soup - Dal and Dumplings

Sorry ... do to an error on Google+, all of my photos from my earlier blogs have disappeared.  

Thanksgiving was a success.  We had a small, but lively group.  I made a ton of food as always.  Each year I do a different theme for the appetizers.  One year was tapas, another year it was American South and this year was Asian.  We had shrimp toast (which I made for the first time!), chicken lettuce wraps, kani salad, Chinese-style pickled cucumbers, Hoisin wings and cold sesame noodle salad.  I wanted to take pictures and list all of the recipes, but it was just too hectic to keep stopping to snap pictures.

All of those dishes, followed by turkey, gravy, stuffing, potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, broccoli casserole, etc. made for a very filling evening.  Which brings me to this recipe.  After eating so many heavy, meaty dishes, I thought it would be good to make something vegetarian, yummy and easy.  Dal is the Hindi word for any legume.  However, in Trinidad, dal generally refers to yellow split peas.

Without going into a lengthy history lesson, much of the food in the dual-island nation of Trinidad and Tobago is influenced by the indentured laborers that came to the islands from India in the late 1800's/early 1900's.  This dish is the Trinidadian version of the Gujarati dish, dal dhokli.  In both versions, legumes are simmered with tumeric until soft and golden, then pureed.  Simple flour dumplings are added and the whole thing is topped off with a fragrant, spice-infused oil (called tadka or chaunk).  The Gujarati version has a few more ingredients but both are delicious.  Here's the (slightly abridged) version that my mom,who was born in Trinidad, made.  


For the dal:
1 16-ounce bag of yellow split peas
4-5 large garlic cloves (smashed with the flat side of a knife)
2 teaspoons of tumeric
1 sprig of celery leaves (optional)
1 whole scotch bonnet pepper (optional) - Serrano, habanero, Thai chili or jalapeno could be used.
Water as needed
Salt as needed

For the dumplings:
3 cups of all purpose flour (plus extra for rolling out)
Water as needed

For the tempering:
2 teaspoons of cumin seeds
1/4 cup of cooking oil (canola, vegetable, grapeseed, etc is fine.  Olive oil won't work for this)
4 cloves of garlic, sliced very thinly 
1/2 small onion, peeled and minced finely

Here's what you do:

Put your split peas in a bowl. Pick out any debris that might be in there.  Wash the peas in several changes of water and place it in a large pot.  I use an 8 quart stock pot.  Cover with about 3 quarts of water (12 cups).

Now add the tumeric, smashed garlic, celery leaves and scotch bonnet pepper to the pot.

If you simmer the hot pepper in the soup without letting it burst, it will flavor the dish without imparting any heat.  The heat in hot peppers is caused by capsaicin.  Capsaicin is found in the membranes and seeds of the pepper.  So, as long as the pepper stays intact, the dish won't become spicy.  Another option is to split a mild pepper, like jalapeno, in half and remove the seeds.  Then you can add it to the pot without any worries.  I personally like to burst the pepper at the end, give it a couple stirs and then remove it before it gets too fiery.

Here it all is in the pot.  Add about 2 tablespoons of salt and bring to a boil.  Once it's boiling, drop the heat down to a vigorous simmer.  If you keep it on high heat, it will boil over and make a mess all over your stove.  Also, foam will accumulate as it cooks (I forgot to show a picture of this) skim it off and stir occasionally.  Add water  as needed.  You will need to cook the peas for about an hour until they're mushy and completely melted down.

When the peas are cooked all the way through, remove the pepper (unless you want to break it up and make the soup spicy)

I use this to swizzle the dal and make it smooth.  I know it looks like a prehistory weapon, but it's just a wooden kitchen tool found in Indian grocery stores.  You could also use a hand blender or a metal whisk.  If you don't have any of those, just stir with a wooden spoon until it all mashed up and smooth.

While the dal is cooking, make the dough for your dumplings.   The dumplings I'm talking about are not the Asian filled pillows of goodness.  These are akin to the dumplings found in chicken and dumpling soup.  Put the three cups of flour into a large bowl.

Add cold water, a little at a time until a firm dough is formed.  The dough should be smooth and not sticky to the touch.  If it is, you've added to much water and will need to work in more flour to make it firm.

This is how my mom would make dumplings.  She would break off small pieces of dough and roll them between her palms.  I make mine differently but if you like the shape, you can always make yours like this.  

Roll the dough ball out into a thin circle on a floured surface.

Here's a good chance to use that pizza cutter that you have sitting in your drawer .  If you've never gone through a pizza making phase like me, a sharp knife will do the trick.  Cut the rolled out dough into strips.

Then cut the strips into diamonds.

Lightly dust the cut pieces with flour.
Add the dumplings to the pot.

Diced onion, sliced garlic and cumin seeds for the tadka or chaunk (seasoned oil for tempering).   

Get the oil very hot.  I have a small frying pan that I use just for making tadka (seasoned oil).  Add the garlic and cumin seeds. And fry until the garlic just starts to turn brown.  Brown is ok, black will be bitter, so keep an eye on it.

Add the onions.  It will start to sizzle intensely from the moisture in the onion.  When the garlic is well browned and the onion starts to color, add it to the soup pot.  

Add the tadka carefully to the soup.  It will sizzle and splatter a little .

Mix the tadka in immediately until well blended.  Taste and adjust the salt as needed.

Here's the finished product and a look at the dumplings as well.  You can garnish with a little chopped parsley or cilantro and a squeeze of lemon if you'd like.

Bon Apetit!

1 comment:

  1. I like your recipe.Very Nice.Most dal recipes require a pressure cooker