My entire house smells like curry, I mean really strongly and I CANNOT get David Bowie’s ‘China Girl’ out of my head, which especially stinks since I don’t know all the words. I am certain I am not the first person this has happened to, but I’ll explain anyway.
When I was younger one of my favorite movies was Labyrinth with Jennifer Connelly and David Bowie and all those little Jim Henson trolls. Do you know it? It’s great! A cult classic- one of the weirdest kids movies, and with fantastic special effects for the time. Anyway, my daughter adores it even though she is way too young to understand what is going on (which is good because some parts are slightly scary) and has been asking to watch it over and over again. David Bowie plays the goblin king, and sings quite a bit while prancing about in high-waisted tights and billowy tops (kind of like the rest of his career). I can’t recommend the movie highly enough. But getting to the curry connection:
My very dear friend Anna has been living and working at the Esalen Institute in Big Sur, California for the past couple of years. It’s a gorgeous community/retreat/learning center on the cliffs of Big Sur where they are known for their healthy and delicious food, among other things. (Coincidentally, Jennifer Connelly’s mother also works at Esalen- ha! What a weird connection). A short while after she moved there, she sent me the Esalen Cookbook, partly to share a little of what she knew would interest me from a place she found very special, and also (let’s be honest) so I could recreate some of her favorite recipes when she came home to visit.
It is a beautiful cookbook and I have cooked and baked from it several times with very good results. Yesterday I decided to make the Ayurvedic Channa Dal (a thick, curried soup with beans or lentils) since I would be going by the Indian Market (Shalimar) in the morning and could easily pick up the odds and ends I did not already have in my kitchen. Nooow I think you are following, yes? Channa Dal…China Doll…China Girl? Too many Labyrinth viewings at the Amshalem house…. there you go. That is how I found myself at 10 pm last night cooking up a huge pot of Channa Dal while singing David Bowie and cursing the way curry permeates everything, even if it does taste delicious.
Ayurvedic Dal, from the Esalen Cookbook
2 cups channa dal or massor dal
8 cups water
1 medium carrot, cut into half-inch dice
2 Tbs peeled and minced fresh ginger, divided
2 Tbs curry powder
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1 cup raisins (I used black currants)
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 14-oz can coconut milk
2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbs fresh cilantro, or to taste
Rinse the dal until the water runs clear. Place dal into a 4-quart (large) saucepan/dutch oven and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and add the carrot and 1 tsp of the minced ginger. Cover and let simmer for 1/2 hour (check after 20 minutes to make sure the dal is not getting mushy- it should be soft but still hold its shape).
In a dry saute pan over low heat, toast the curry powder until it has a strong fragrant smell (you may want to open a window). Set curry aside. Put oil in the saute pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the scallions, remaining ginger and raisins. Saute for two minutes and then add tomato paste and saute for tow minutes more while breaking up tomato paste with spoon or spatula.
Add the toasted curry powder to the saute pan, mix well and then add this to the cooked dal along with coconut milk and salt. Simmer for 20 minutes, uncovered over low heat (you may need to simmer for longer to get to a thicker consistency- this meant to be thick soup, though it will appear thicker as it cools). Take it off the heat and stir in cilantro.
‘you remind me of the babe. what babe? the babe with the power? what power? the power of voodoo? who do? you do. you remind me of the babe.‘-David Bowie, Labyrinth, 1986