The scent of wild garlic is once again wafting through the woodlands of Britain. This year it’s even been in the news, though sadly not for the right reasons. It seems it’s getting too popular for its own good and some people (or maybe restaurants) are over-harvesting this precious seasonal delicacy.
Our local patch has thankfully not suffered such a fate and there is still plenty to go round again this year. Long may it continue. A little really does go a long way so there’s no need to rip up huge swathes of these fragile leaves. And though you can eat the whole plant please don’t yank up the bulbs, stick to the leaves, buds and flowers so it returns again next year.
OK, that’s the public service announcement out of the way. How best to enjoy this savoury sensation? Well, I’ve made a few risottos and pasta with it in the past but how about something Indian? For me this is dangerous territory; I’m passionate about my authentic Indian recipes, so I don’t normally go for ‘fusion dishes’. However, I’m conflicted because I love to use local sustainable ingredients, shipping everything halfway round the world just because it’s authentic isn’t my style either. And it doesn’t get much more local than wild garlic that you’ve picked a short stroll from your front door. So I just had to come up with a way to utilize this ingredient in an Indian veg dish without making it unrecognisable.
In my house, everyone loves their dal. Like most Indian cooks I’ve got strong opinions about how dal should be cooked and a decent repertoire of recipes up my sleeve, including some to which I add greens, such as spinach. So I thought I’d adapt one of my standard dals to include a few wild garlic leaves. It’s not exactly a revolutionary idea, but the best food for me is normally derived from classic combinations and lentils with garlic is about as tried and tested as it gets. That said, wild garlic adds something different, its flavour being far more subtle than farmed garlic bulbs. It’s fresher, more aromatic, more like onion than garlic, but not the same as onion. So it’s unique, a flavour that you can’t reproduce with any ingredient that I’ve ever found in a supermarket. That’s what makes foraging for it so worthwhile, and the fact that its season lasts just a few short spring weeks makes it extra special.
This wild garlic tadka dal is
- a celebration of seasonal foraged wild garlic
- sustainable, cheap, quick and easy to cook
- rich in protein from the lentils and vitamin C from wild garlic
- made with split Indian red lentils aka split masoor dal
- a one-pot dal that comes together in under 30 minutes
- an instant pot recipe but easily adaptable to stovetop pressure cookers and regular pots. The lentil to hot water ratio should be 1:3. Pressure cook for 3 minutes on a high setting for IP.
- can be easily cooked on a stovetop pressure cooker. Stick with the lentil to hot water ratio of 1:3. Allow 1 whistle or 5 minutes.
- Tastes creamy and aromatic with the subtle pungency of wild garlic
Freezing and Storage
This dal keeps well refrigerated for up to 5 days. If you want to keep it for longer I’d suggest freezing it. Freeze it on the same day it’s cooked, simply allow it to cool to room temperature and transfer into a ziplock biodegradable freezer bag. Then leave in the freezer and consume within 3 months.
Re-heat thoroughly once thawed and eat immediately. Do not refreeze.
Wild Garlic Tadka DalCourse: MainCuisine: Indian, EuropeanDifficulty: Easy
The humble dal gets a makeover with foraged wild garlic found in the woodlands of Britain around April-May. It’s called tadka dal because it has an additional tempering of Indian spices and wild garlic flower buds. Even without the extra tempering (we call it ‘tadka’), this split red lentil creamy dal tastes wonderfully delicious with the subtle pungency of wild garlic. This recipe can be cooked in an Instant Pot, a stovetop pressure cooker or even a regular saucepan.
200g split red lentils (split masoor dal)
100g wild garlic leaves and stalks (washed thoroughly and chopped)
600ml hot water
2 medium-sized tomatoes (chopped)
1 medium-sized onion (chopped)
10-12 garlic cloves (sliced)
60ml sunflower oil
1 tbsp mustard seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp asafoetida
5-8 green chillies (slit)
5-8 curry leaves
Salt to taste
- For the tadka:
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp red chilli powder
1 dried red chilli
2-3 curry leaves
10g wild garlic buds or flowers (or/and finely chopped leaves) (optional)
- Wash the dal (lentils) a couple of times under a running tap in a bowl. Strain the water. Leave it to rest.
- Turn the Instant Pot on in Sauté mode on High. Add the oil. Once hot, crackle the mustard seeds followed by the cumin. Add the asafoetida and throw in half of the sliced garlic and curry leaves. Follow with the chopped onion. Allow the onion to become translucent and garlic to ever so lightly brown. Immediately add the green chillies. Sauté for another minute until all the ingredients are cooked.
- Add the turmeric powder and stir in the chopped wild garlic until fully wilted and par-cooked. Stir the chopped tomatoes in and saute for 30 seconds or so.
- Tip in the rinsed lentils and mix everything well. Pour the hot water and stir a couple of times. Add salt to taste.
- Secure the lid and seal the pressure release valve. Press Cancel and change the Instant Pot mode to Pressure Cook on High. Set the timer to 3 minutes.
- After 3 minutes are up, you can either release the pressure manually by pressing the pressure release valve down or allow the pressure to dissipate naturally. If you do the latter, set the ‘Keep warm’ option off.
- Remove the Instant Pot lid. Taste the dal and add salt, if needed.
- Change the Instant Pot mode to Sauté on Low.
- Meanwhile, in a tempering ladle or a small frying pan over a low to medium flame, prepare the ‘tadka’ or tempering by first spluttering the additional mustard seeds in hot oil. Then add the cumin seeds followed by the remaining sliced garlic and curry leaves (from step 2).
- Gently drop a whole dried red chilli into the ladle along with the chilli powder. Optionally, add the finely chopped wild garlic leaves or buds.
- Turn off the flame and immediately pour the tadka over the hot dal simmering gently in the Instant Pot (from step 8). Stir it all well with the tempering ladle.
- Throw in a handful of chopped coriander and serve the dal with warm steamed rice.
- Stovetop pressure cooker method:
- Follow steps 1 through 4, in a pressure cooker over a medium flame. Once the water in the pressure cooker comes to a boil, secure the lid and allow 1 whistle or 5 minutes. Let the pressure release naturally.
- Open the pressure cooker lid, taste the dal and add salt, if needed.
- Keep the pressure cooker over a low flame (with the lid off) and simmer gently.
- Follow steps 9 and 10 above.
- Pour the additional tadka over the hot dal simmering in the pressure cooker. Stir it all well with the tempering ladle. Finish with step 12.
- Stovetop saucepan (non pressure cooker) method:
- Follow steps 1 though 4, in a heavy bottomed and deep lidded pan over a medium flame. Once the water comes to a rolling boil, turn the flame down to low and put the lid on. Continue cooking until the lentils are cooked. This will take upto 20 minutes.
- Taste the dal and simmer gently over a low flame with the lid on. Add salt, if needed.
- Follow steps 9 and 10 above.
- Pour the additional tadka over the hot dal simmering in the deep pan. Stir it all well with the tempering ladle. Finish with step 12.
- If the lentils are left to soak for 15-20 mins, the pressure cooking time will reduce by a minute in the Instant Pot.
- You can also cook rice in your Instant Pot at the same time as the dal. Wash, rinse and then soak some white Basmati rice for 10 minutes. Then drain. Before pressure cooking the dal in the Instant Pot (step 5), place the trivet (that comes with the Instant Pot) over the dal. Put the rice in a flat-bottomed heat-proof container and cover with water. Then place the container on the trivet. Continue pressure cooking the dal for 3 minutes, as per the recipe.
- De-seed the green chillies after slitting them lengthways, if you like your dal less spicy.
- The additional tadka at the end of the recipe can be skipped if you like a simple dal.