An Ode to Dickie!
The story behind this week’s post is inspired by my grandfather’s love affair with India and all the things that accompany it, curry being the topic of the day.
My Grandpa, affectionately referred to as “Dickie”, was a man of many loves and talents. He was quiet and rather eccentric in his tastes, interests and general way of being. He was the kind of guy who would recite poetry around a campfire at night, give you knives on your birthday from his own personal collection and invite you shooting with him at his local firing range where he was considered a legend due to his many victories as a marksman.
He was an Austrian and a cowboy. He was working as a cattle herder in Canada when he met my English grandmother, Anne. Although he could hardly speak any English, he recited poetry to her for hours and won over her heart. They were married, had their first three kids in Scotland and then moved to India when Dick got a post as an electrical engineer during the days of British colonisation. They had their fourth and final child together in India and stayed for several years longer.
Their background in India explains a lot about my family’s obsession with all things chili as well as my mum’s enthusiastic use of the colour spectrum which reflected in every area of her life – her cooking, her choice of clothing and our extremely bright and inviting home.
Although I usually eat a mixture of raw and cooked foods in every meal, I have been craving Dahl all week and subsequently my grandpa has been frequenting my thoughts. It makes me smile to have such fond memories of him, and to know he’s been communicating with me via the abyss. Dickie recently passed away, but his love and light is reflected in the laughs we share and the incredible curries yet to be made.
A Note On Dahl
Dhal is a dried pulse (lentil, pea or bean) that is relatively quick and easy to prepare. Dahl has the ability to absorb a variety of flavours from other foods and seasonings. This pulse is high in nutritional value and is available throughout the year. Dahl contains high levels of dietary fibre, with low levels of cholesterol and sodium making it great for heart health.
500 g Oil Lentils (toover dal)
1 l Water
1.5 t Medium Magi Masala (or to taste)
1.5 t Finely Crushed Ginger (adrak)
1.5 t Crushed Garlic (lassan)
1.5 t Turmeric (haldi)
1 t Coconut Sugar
1 Lemon, Juice
400 g Tinned Organic Tomatoes
4 Gem Squashes
2 t Oryx Desert Salt
1.5 T Ghee or Oil
0.5 t Asafoetida (hing)
1.5 t Cumin Seeds (jeera)
1.5 t Fenugreek Seeds (methi)
*Tempering of spices is a traditional method to extract the full flavour from spices by heating them in hot oil or ghee and then adding them to the dish.
Wash your lentils several times and then soak them in warm water for 30 minutes. Rinse and discard any skins.
Halve your gems, removing the seeds and boil them in water in a pot until the flesh turns soft (15-20 minutes). Scoop the flesh from the gems, add to the lentils and bring them to the boil in 1 liter of water. Add the rest of the ingredients, except the tempering spices and continue to simmer until the lentils are soft.
Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and fry the tempering spices until the seeds start to pop and the fenugreek seeds turn soft. Add the lentil mixture and simmer for another 10 minutes (or longer if you have the time as it will just allow the lentils to swell up even more!!).
I like to serve my Dahl with lots of fresh coriander and sprouts for the extra crunch.
Below is one of Dickie’s favourite poems, he recited it often and I have come to know it off by heart.
A hill to live on.
I want a hill to live on, lone and high,
because when I was young I used to lie
Out on a hill at evening watching stars:
I didn’t care at all which one was Mars,
I couldn’t find the Dipper or the Bear
Or anything my elders said was there.
And why I should I couldn’t understand,
It was enough to lie there and expand
Till all the stars were shining into me,
And I was all the stars that I could see
In the endless acres of the night;
That was the best of living that was right.
The worst was going into sticky gloom
And having to shrink myself to fit a room.
– Author unknown