I’ve got a bit into slow food lately – by which I mean that plan-ahead variety of cooking that requires soaking, simmering, fermenting and proving for days on end. Yeah, you need to think about what you might want to eat several days from now instead of right now, but there’s such a satisfaction when you get to eat something that’s been so long coming!
The first thing I tried was a dal makhani, after visiting Dishoom again and being reminded how insanely good their version is. After a brief Twitter discussion trying to persuade them to give up their recipe and/or let me stockpile ten tupperwares’ worth for my freezer, I turned to Google for some recipes. I picked this one because it especially mentioned Dishoom in the write-up and I figure that if any recipe takes 4 days it has to be bloody amazing by the end of it…
While a 4-day cookathon sounds intense, there isn’t really much to do each day. The first is just soaking the lentils, and admiring their beautiful beetle-y green-black colour. Then spice pastes get made, onions get caramelised and blitzed into puree, and the lentils take a lot of slow, gentle cooking. The final step is adding a crapload of butter and cream. I couldn’t even bring myself to add as much as the recipe suggests (near enough a whole block) so went for a half quantity.
To serve the dal, I figured if I’d gone to so much effort with it why not whip up some homemade paneer too? Luckily this is way easier and quicker – I used this method, though I needed to add more lemon juice than suggested to get the milk to curdle.
So, the taste? Honestly, if I wasn’t comparing the result to Dishoom I would have been very happy with it, but it didn’t quite reach their lofty dal-nirvana heights. The consistency and creaminess was about right, but something was lacking: Josh and I agreed it was both salt and tomato flavour. Undeterred, I mixed up the leftovers with an extra carton of passata and a good lug more seasoning and gave it a couple more hours in a low oven. The colour changed to more a Dishoom-esque brick-red and the flavour was significantly better after another day of sitting around. It won’t keep me away from Dishoom, but it might stave off the cravings between visits.
Up next on my slow-cooking agenda was 5-day cold fermented pizza. According to some stuff I’ve been reading, pizza crust that’s been fermented slowly in a cool atmosphere takes on that fabulous crispy, chewy, bubbly texture of a good Napoli pizza, and is also apparently easier on digestion than non-fermented wheat. Again doing the prep was incredibly simple (no kneading required!), then the dough just needs to skulk in the fridge for a few days, after which it takes on a slightly sour whiff and the appearance of a lunar landscape.
After stretching out the slow-fermented dough, I started the cooking in a large frying pan on the stovetop then transferred it to under the grill to finish the top. The tomato sauce is simply drained tinned tomatoes with a pinch of sugar, salt and oregano, and I added buffalo mozzarella after the cooking and just let it melt in the hot oven. It was definitely the best home-cooked pizza I’ve made; while I didn’t quite get that totally burned bubbly goodness it was chewy, crispy and super tasty.
I wouldn’t hesitate to make both of these recipes again; the method and ingredients are simple so you just need to plan ahead a few days before you want to eat delicious dal or pizza. The dal is also freezer-friendly (I’m not sure if you could freezer the fermented pizza dough?) so make a double quantity and you’ll have enough for a slow-cooked meal on tap another time.