This dish is a winner. The unctuously smooth noodles in a spicy tomato and toor dal sauce could seduce most mortals I know. In spite of the many ingredients, it's fairly simple to make. South Asia has scores of noodle dishes, and this Gujarati specialty is one of them. First a soupy sauce is made with split pigeon peas (toor dal) and tomatoes, then freshly made noodles are dropped in to cook. It is hot, slightly sweet and sour and quite scrumptious. This particular recipe is from a family that came to Leicester from Uganda in East Africa. Gujaratis serve this dal in small, individual bowls, with other vegetarian specialities, rice and breads. I like to serve it, Western-style, in old-fashioned soup plates as a starter.
- 125 g (4½ oz) oily or plain toor dal, washed and drained
- 675 g (1 lb 7 oz) tomatoes
- 1 tbsp tomato purée
- 2 tbsp olive or sunflower oil
- ⅛ tsp ground asafoetida
- 2 hot dried chillies
- 2 tbsp raw peanuts with skin (small are better)
- 2.5 cm (1 inch) cassia bark or cinnamon stick
- 4 cloves
- ¼ tsp mustard seeds
- ¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
- 10 fresh curry leaves
- 1 handful of coriander leaves
- 2 tsp lemon juice
- 2 tsp ground coriander
- 2 tsp ground cumin
- ¼-1 tsp chilli powder
- 1½ tsp garam masala
- 1½ –2 tsp salt, or to taste
- 1½ –2 tbsp caster sugar, or to taste
- 100 g (3½ oz) plain flour, plus more to dust
- 2 tbsp chickpea (gram) flour
- 1 tsp peeled, finely grated root ginger
- ¼ tsp very, very finely chopped hot green chillies
- ½ tsp turmeric
- ¼ tsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp sunflower oil
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.
First, make the sauce. Combine the dal and 475 ml of water in a small pan – 13 cm would be ideal – and bring to a boil. Cover partially, reduce the heat to low and cook for 45 minutes, or until the dal is tender. Meanwhile, roughly chop the tomatoes and purée them in a blender. Mash up the dal with a potato masher and mix it with the tomatoes, tomato purée and 475 ml more water in a bowl.
Place a larger 15 cm pan over a medium-high heat and pour in the oil. As soon as it is hot, put in the following in quick succession: first the asafoetida and dried chillies, then the peanuts, cassia and cloves, then the mustard seeds, then the fenugreek seeds and curry leaves. Now stir in the dal and tomato mixture and add all the remaining ingredients for the sauce, with salt and sugar to taste.
Bring to a boil, then stir and reduce the heat to a low simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring now and then, or until the peanuts have become tender and the sauce is amalgamated. Set aside. (You could make this a day in advance, then cover and refrigerate.)
When you are preparing to eat, pour the sauce into a 15–20 cm pan and stir in 350 ml of water. Set aside.
It is best to make the noodles shortly before you eat them. Put all the ingredients in a bowl in the order listed. Mix and rub the flour with your fingertips to incorporate the oil, so it begins to look a little like coarse breadcrumbs. Slowly add about 3½ tbsp of water, or just enough to form a dough. Work the dough for a minute, then form it into a smooth ball. Break it into three equal pieces and roll each into a smaller ball.
Flatten one ball into a patty, dip it in flour and roll it out into a 19 cm round on a well-floured surface. With a sharp knife, first cut it lengthways into 5 cm wide strips, then across at 4 cm intervals, to achieve stubby, rectangular noodles. Keep the pieces separated and lightly floured. Working quickly, repeat for the remaining two balls of dough.
Bring the sauce to a boil and drop in the noodles, stirring as you do so. Reduce the heat to medium-low; it should still be at a vigorous simmer. Cook, stirring now and then, for about 10 minutes, or until the noodles are just done. Serve immediately.