Traditional Dhal (as made in Trinidad and Tobago) is 100% vegan, however mom always added Salted Pigtails, Salted Cod or Salted Beef in hers, to change up the flavors a bit for us. Using her recipe as a base, this is my take on Salt(ed) Beef Dhal, a childhood fave of my brother and I.
5 cups yellow split peas (washed)
3 L water (adjust)
3/4 tablespoon salt (adjust)
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoon turmeric
20-22 cloves garlic (divided)
1 medium onion (diced)
1 scotch bonnet pepper (sliced)
3 pimento peppers (optional – sliced)
2-3 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 lb salted beef
1 tablespoon cumin (geera) seeds
Note! This will yield a massive pot of dhal, as when I make this I purposely cook a large pot with the intention to divide and freeze for days when I get a dhal craving. When thawing, add 1/2 cup of water and place on a very low heat. Divide the recipe to make smaller amounts. If doing this recipe gluten free, be sure to go through the full list of ingredients to make sure they meet with your specific gluten free dietary needs.
The first thing you need to do is to rinse the salted beef pieces (see my comments in the video below), then place them in a large pot of water (not the water mentioned in the ingredient list) and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer for 1 to 1.5 hours. This is an important step to tenderize the beef and to help remove most of the salt it was cured in.
Drain, rinse and set aside. Please note that in Canada you get this beef in a small pail and it’s usually called Cured Navel Beef. From experience I can say that it’s usually MUCH tougher than the salted beef we get in the Caribbean when I was ah lil fella.
Place the water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Then give the split peas a good rinse, drain and add to the pot along with the turmeric. As it comes back up to a boil, skim off the froth at the top and discard.
It’s now time to add the precooked (will still be tough) pieces of salted beef, black pepper, scotch bonnet (adjust to your own heat tolerance), Pimento peppers (if you can source it), 3/4 of the garlic (smashed) and the onion. As it comes to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until the peas are tender and falling apart.
It’ will take between 1 hour to 1 hour and 20 minutes. Keep stirring every 15 minutes or so and add more water if you find that it’s getting too thick. At this point I remove the pieces of salted beef from the pot and set aside. Then using my traditional swizzle stick (see the video below) I worked it to the texture and consistency I like (somewhat thick). If you’re using a stick blender, I’d recommend pulsing and not have it go continuous or it will become frothy. The idea is to break up the yellow split peas (and everything else) into a smooth, silky consistency.
At this point you will add the salt mentioned in the ingredient list and adjust to your liking. There should be remnants of salt from the salted beef, so this is why I suggest you salt it now. Add back the pieces of salted beef to the pot (I removed the bones and cut them into smaller pieces).
Lets temper (chunkay) the dhal as we’ve done in other recipes. In a small frying pan, heat the oil with the remaining garlic (smashed) and cumin (geera) seeds until you start seeing smoke – the garlic should be burnt (YES). Being CAREFUL, pour that hot-flavored oil into the pot of dhal, then give it a stir.
Keep in mind that the dhal will thicken as it cools. Once cooled you can divide into containers and freeze for later use.
Feel free to be creative by adding green split peas or lentils in the mix if you want. My aunt would add poi bhagi (Malabar Spinach) near the end and allow the residual heat to gently cook it. The burnt garlic will give the dhal a lovely smoky undertone.
Drop me your comments below, tag me on Instagram and don’t forget you can now get my cookbook – The Vibrant Caribbean Pot, 100 Traditional And Fusion Recipes @ CaribbeanPot.com/CookBook/