The Perfect Daal

“This is a recipe from the tribal territories,” he booms in his usual stentorian fashion. I suppose it’s because he was a Major in the army in Pakistan.

“You Brits never use enough spice” he carries on, tipping a waterfall of ground coriander into the bubbling tomatoes. No wonder those Asian supermarkets sell spices in such huge quantities.

“And here’s the trick to the daal. Watch!” He fries quartered garlic cloves, jeera (cumin) and chillies in sunflower oil till the jeera pops and the garlic is browned and then pours it over the daal with a finishing flourish.

It tastes sublime, the spices pulsating through, like a wine with endless length, the flavours coming and coming until the pleasure is almost unbearable.

I sometimes cook it for friends, making a thing of that final flourish. “It’s a recipe from the North West Frontier,” I say casually.

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