I love rhubarb as a savoury ingredient, especially with lamb or chicken. And I’ve used it in Persian-inspired food, but I never thought to take it further east. I came across the concept of rhubarb dahl, and experimented…
- Oil or ghee or butter or a mixture
- Whole spices – 8 cloves, 1 stick cinnamon, 1 tablespoon brown mustard seed
- Fresh garlic, ginger, chilli – I used 2 heaped teaspoons garlic/ginger paste from a jar, and 1 small red chilli chopped fine.
- Veg – 1 red onion, 2 sticks of rhubarb, chopped
- Powdered spice – 2 teaspoons each turmeric and ginger
- 250 gms red lentils
- 8 curry leaves
- Large pinch asafoetida (hing)
You’ll need a heavy bottomed saucepan or casserole that can go on the hob, and a small frying pan or saucepan for the tempering.
- Cover the bottom of your pan with fat, to a depth of a few millimetres. Get it quite hot, but not enough to burn the butter if you’re using it.
- Add the whole dry spices, the mustard seeds should sizzle and pop.
- Turn the heat down, add the wet spices, stir for a minute or two.
- Add the onion and rhubarb. Cook until they soften up a bit.
- Stir in the powdered spices, then the lentils.
- Add water. The quantity depends on the size of your pan and how much attention you want to pay to it over the next half hour or so. The lentils need to be covered in water, at least. If you add more than that, you won’t have to be checking it every few minutes, even more and your end product will be soupy rather than firm. So your choice.
- Bring to a boil, then turn it down low, or put it a low oven or a slow cooker.
- The lentils usually take 20-30 minutes to actually cook on the hob. You can leave it longer and it will get more tasty and mushy. Check every so often, especially towards the end, so it doesn’t stick and catch.
- When you’re ready to serve, stir in salt to taste, and take out the cinnamon stick.
Dahl is best with a hot oil drizzle. I fried curry leaves crisp in butter, with a pinch of asafoetida, and poured a tablespoonful over each serving.
We had this with a Bengali salmon dish garnished with fresh coriander, turmeric bread, natural yoghourt, and aubergine/brinjal pickle. It would serve 8 as a hefty side, 4 as a veggie main. It’s lovely cold.
Notes for next time
It was very refreshing and delicate. It could easily take more heat, and/or ginger. More rhubarb? Coconut milk as part of the liquid? Add poached or fried eggs on top would make an excellent breakfast.