Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Cookbook Case Study - Dal and Jaggery Payasam - Quick and Easy
I had to make a special trip to buy the mung dal (split mung bean) required for this recipe. A visit to Moshims made me yearn to live in a suburb like Newtown, with its rich cultural diversity and local ethnic grocery stores.
Some days later, while researching the cooking time for whole bkack gram (black lentils), I discovered that mung dal comes in two forms: split, or split and skinned. The variety I had bought was not skinned - and though the recipe was non-specific, I suspected skinned mung dal was the intended type of dal for the recipe.
Split mung dal
Not worrying too much about it, I started cooking the dal. As soon as I mixed the boiling water with the soaked dal, many skins started to float to the surface. Seeing my opportunity, and not wanting to eat a dessert with mung bean skins scattered throughout, I took the dal off the stove and started to scoop out the skins with a tea strainer. I spent quite some time stirring the dal to agitate the skins into a swirling vortex, and scooping them out before they sunk to the surface of the dal again. Once there were so few skins that this task diminished in its returns, I put the dal back on the stove to continue cooking.
Mung dal with some skins removed
Jaggery, or palm sugar, I already had on hand from a recipe I'd made some time ago. This sugar comes in cake form - mine were so hard, perhaps from absorbing too much water in their long storage, that my small grinder struggled with them, and I decided to grate them by hand. (It turns out that this was probably unnecessary, if I had only managed to break them into chunks, the moisture from the dal and coconut milk would have dissolved them with little effort.)
Piles of grated jaggery
Grinding cardamom seeds
Putting it all together
After grinding some cardamom seeds, I mixed all the ingredients together, and heated for a few minutes. Expecting a thick, semolina-like consistency, I was surprised that the dessert was more like a thin porridge. The taste was very sweet, with a hint of cardamom - but the coconut cream taste was disguised by the sweetness of the jaggery. The recipe called for a cup of jaggery, or to taste. I think next time I make this dessert, I would use between 1/2 and 3/4 of a cup to make the dessert slightly less syrupy. Next time, also, I would prefer to use split skinned mung beans, though the skins did not bother me while eating the dessert - and I do have a few cups of mung dal left in the pantry.
Dal and Jaggery Payasam
Same payasam, different angle!
I had enough leftover to last me another couple of days. The dal was good as a dessert or sweet breakfast. I liked it best served over chopped banana, and with a drizzle of extra coconut cream over the top.
Dal and jaggery payasam with banana and coconut cream