Dhal (also spelled dal or daal) is dried lentils or peas that are prepared into a thick stew like soup. It can be eaten by itself, with rice, roti, or as an accompaniment. I often serve dhal with curry chicken or saltfish buljol. Dhal is a great source of protein and contains no meat or animal products. Therefore, this is vegetarian and vegan friendly. When making dhal, it requires you to do something called chunkaying. This recipe is simple but for the intensity of the flavors you must not only chunkay the dhal, but also pull out your mortar and pestle for fresh ground roasted geera (cumin). Or you can buy ground roasted cumin, but trust me, it will not be the same.
For an “authentic” experience eat dhal with clean hands using your fingers. This is the one time I will suggest forgoing proper “western etiquette.” Eating dhal and rice with your fingers is as real as it gets. We eat this meal at least once a month. This is truly a “Trini to di bone” recipe.
2 cups yellow split peas
7 cups water
2 teaspoons ground turmeric powder
6 cloves of garlic sliced thinly
1/4 yellow onion minced
1/2 tablespoon cumin/geera seeds
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 whole habanero/ scotch bonnet pepper
2 pinches of salt
In a large bowl place split peas. Cover with water. Remove debris using your hands. Water will be cloudy. Pour water off of peas. Repeat until water is no longer cloudy/appears clear. I usually have to rinse my peas 5 times.
Bring 7 cups of water to boil in heavy calderno or heavy pot. Add peas, turmeric, 1/2 of sliced garlic, and whole habanero pepper. Boil for 10 minutes, then reduce temperature to medium-low and cook for one hour with pot covered. After an hour remove top and cook for another 20-30 minutes or until water is reduced by half.
Meanwhile, place a sauce pan on the stove and turn eye to medium-high heat. Once pan is hot, place geera (cumin seeds) in sauce pan. Do not allow seeds to burn. As soon as they begin to “pop” or dance around the pan, remove sauce pan from heat and pour seeds directly into your mortar and pestle . Grind seeds until smooth (the aroma will be AMAZING).
Remove habanero from pot, but DO NOT discard. With an immersion stick/hand blender blend peas for 1 minute (I often simply remove one cup of peas and blend in my blender and then return them to the put with remaining peas. This creates dhal that is smooth but still has some texture).
Allow sauce pan to cool and add olive oil. Turn to high temperature. Once oil is hot add 1/4 onion, garlic, and ground geera (cumin) to oil. Allow to cook for 1 minute. Then CAREFULLY pour oil mixture directly into split peas. Be very careful when doing this for oil will be extremely hot. <——- This is called chunkaying Pronounced “chunking”.
Mix oil mixture and peas very well and add salt. Taste. Add more salt if needed. Leave on low heat.
Serve over rice or the items mentioned above.