It’s time to go with the slow

As win­ter starts to bite, Su­mayya Us­mani has the per­fect an­ti­dote – a warm­ing lentil pul­lao

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Food+Drink -

It seems that au­tumn was here for merely a week and win­ter has al­ready set it. The com­fort­ing warm glow of an au­tum­nal sky is re­placed with the bit­ing cold air and early evenings – bring­ing both sea­sonal lurgy as well as weather in­duced low moods. The only thing that gets us through the end of the year is fes­tive an­tic­i­pa­tion

of the sea­son’s fun-filled days to come. This is when the lack of meat in my diet might be tested – my go-to food for win­ter would have al­ways been a slow cooked curry, or stew. I did won­der if this is when I would crave meat – but it hasn’t hap­pened yet.

In­stead I am crav­ing slow-cooked spiced aubergines, rich meaty mush­rooms cooked in pas­try or hearty

soups. As this is a time for com­fort food, I do crave some of that spice I grew up with, which is when I think of the eas­i­est rice based dish that de­liv­ered that com­fort, I al­ways turn to rice when I need a warm em­brace in the colder days. Pul­lao is one of my favourites – in the days gone by I would usu­ally make a

mut­ton spiced pul­lao which is a Pak­istani es­sen­tial, but now with cut­ting out meat, I find rather than veg­etable pul­lao, lentil ones cre­ate a sim­i­lar heat and in­ten­sity that meat used to, if any­thing I find it more sat­is­fy­ing (and cheaper).

Chana daal is the more ro­bust of the lentil fam­ily and it is ba­si­cally yel­low split peas – with the use of darker spices such as star anise, black car­damom, the re­sult is wholly en­joy­able.

This recipe is based on my mother’s mut­ton pul­lao and adapt­ing it with lentil, a won­der­ful sup­per on cold nights in Scot­land. Serves: 4-6

Cook­ing time: 30-45 min­utes In­gre­di­ents:

2-3 tbsp ghee or oil

1 black car­damom

1 bay leaf

5 cloves

1 tsp black cumin seeds


Chana daal and black car­damom spiced pul­lao 1 tsp co­rian­der seeds

1 tsp pep­per­corns

1-inch cin­na­mon stick

1 large red onion (thinly sliced)

1 tsp each grated Asda Grower’s se­lec­tion gin­ger and crushed Asda Grower’s Se­lec­tion gar­lic

1 tsp red chilli pow­der

3 tbsp tomato puree

Salt to taste 6 ounces Su­raj chana daal

400 grams bas­mati rice, washed and soaked, then drained


1 Soak the lentils in a bowl of wa­ter for at least 15 min­utes. Then wash the lentils with a few changes of wa­ter and drain. Boil them in fresh salted wa­ter un­til the lentils are ten­der and cooked

well. Put in a strainer to drain any ex­cess wa­ter. Set aside.

2 In a pot add the ghee or oil, when the oil is heated, add the spices and let them splut­ter.

Then add the onion, gin­ger and gar­lic; cook for 3-4 min­utes un­til raw smell goes, stir­ring con­stantly. Lightly brown the onions.

3 Add the red chilli and salt, and tomato puree. Add the cooked lentils.

4 Turn heat low, cover with drained rice, mix. Top with enough wa­ter to lightly cover the rice, but not too much to over wet the rice.

Cover pan with a lid, cook on low heat for 7-8 min­utes or un­til rice is cooked and all the mois­ture is gone. Stir and serve im­me­di­ately with a raita. Su­mayya Us­mani co-presents BBC Ra­dio Scot­land’s Kitchen Cafe. Her books, Sum­mers Un­der The Tamarind Tree and Moun­tain Berries And Desert Spice are out now, pub­lished by Frances Lin­coln Visit sumayyaus­ Twit­ter @SumayyaUs­mani

Su­mayya finds that lentils cre­ate a sim­i­lar heat and in­ten­sity to meat

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