A week-long festival of dal, the first ever British Dal Festival, saw hundreds of people celebrate the diversity of dal from the traditional dals of the Indian subcontinent to pulse dishes from around the world, such as refried beans of Mexico and fava dips of Greece and Britain’s pease pudding or mushy peas.
Festival chair, Nick Saltmarsh, a member of festival initiator and funder the British Edible Pulses Association (BEPA) said: “Bristol’s enthusiasm and support for the first ever British Dal Festival went way beyond our already high hopes. Our aim was to celebrate the cultural richness, flavour, versatility and affordability of dal as well as the health, nutrition and environmental benefits of the pulses that make it. We are grateful to everyone who took part in the festival - the restaurants on the Dal Trail, street food traders and food producers at the market and Grand Dal Finale, everyone who came along to celebrate and feast on dal, our hard-working festival team and volunteers, and partner organisations 91 Ways and Incredible Edible.”
Between 19-25 March, Bristol residents and visitors had the chance to savour special dal dishes on the Dal Trail of over 30 of the city’s restaurants, from Gopal Curry Shack’s “Roald Dal” to “Sister's Peeli Dal and Mum's Kaali Dal and Grandmother's Moonghe De Miti Dal dessert” at Pipal Tree Cafe. Kirpal Singh, owner of the Pipal Tree says: “It was wonderful to be part of the Dal Trail and have the opportunity to share our family dal recipes - favourite dishes from three generations of daughter, mother and grandmother - with both our regular and new customers. Dal for is for us one of the most eaten and enjoyed foods.”
Community organisation 91 Ways to Build a Global City joined forces with Refugee Women of Bristol to host a lunch on Tuesday 20 March. Cooks Amina and Negla produced a delicious dal feast for 85 women using British-grown pulses donated by Hodmedod and veg from Total Produce. The women shared memories, swapped recipes and talked about both the delight and benefit of eating dal. Kalpna Woolf, founder of 91 Ways, said: “It was such an uplifting event and once again showed the power food has to unite us. Dal is an ingredient common to many countries and in many parts of the world it is a staple food which nourishes millions of people every day in daily meals, while also having a place at feast times. It is held with great respect as it is seen as the food that is accessible to all - whatever your circumstance.”
Who said there’s no such thing as a free lunch? Visitors to Wednesday’s weekly Bristol Farmers Market around St Nick’s were invited to enjoy a free dal lunch cooked up by The Thali Cafe and 91 Ways on Wednesday 21 March. Over 200 portions of moong bean and split yellow pea dal were served in a little over an hour.
On the Thursday volunteers led by community growing organisation Incredible Edible Bristol sowed lentils,peas and beans in their Millennium Square plots, demonstrating the range of pulses that can be grown in the UK, from fava beans to carlin peas, on farms and in allotments and gardens. More pulses will be planted at sites across Bristol over the next few weeks and the growing crops tended through to harvest in August and September.
Food writer and cookery teacher, Jenny Chandler created a free to download Dal Lesson Plan to get children cooking dal and learning about the benefits of pulses in schools. Jenny ran workshops in two Bristol primary schools and one at the Bristol Hospital Education Service during the week of the festival. She said: “The classes were tremendously rewarding - working with herbs and spices, learning about the nutritional value, sustainability and versatility of pulses. The magic of dal really does work on so many levels.”
The British Dal Festival culminated in a Grand Dal Finale at Paintworks, Bristol which saw almost 1,000 visitors enjoying and celebrating dal in all its diversity. Cookery demonstrations of dals, typical accompaniments and other pulses dishes were given by chefs and cookery writers including Romy Gill of Romy’s Kitchen; Krishna Dutta, author of The Dal Cookbook; and cook, food writer and cookery teacher Jenny Chandler. There were opportunities for children to cook and spice their own dal, create traditional man-dal-as to represent the universe with pulses, and to make colour rangoli paintings in the courtyard.
The sun shone and visitors feasted on dal in the courtyard from street food traders Spice Box, Thali, Gopal’s Curry Shack and Bombay Brrrrunch. Inside 16 food producers offered an incredible range of dal ingredients, accompaniments and other produce. 91 Ways volunteers and donors had baked a huge selection of delicious cakes and exotic sweets to sell with coffee and tea to raise money for their work with Bristol’s diverse communities. Richard Osborn of Fresh Range, a Bristol based food delivery service said: “It was warm, friendly and positive atmosphere: Everything I’d have expected from a Dal Festival!”
Finally, the British Dal Festival crowned two Champion Dals - Guy Morgan with his "Please sir I want some more! dal" in the home cook category and street food trader Spice Box with a delicious chickpea dal in the professional category.
The competition was judged by an expert panel of Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy, British Edible Pulse Association (BEPA) resident Franek Smith and cookery writer and teacher Jenny Chandler, who said: “It was wonderful to see so much enthusiasm from dal lovers to share their personal recipes and the standard was superb. The winning dals both had that magical combination of comforting, creamy texture with great blend of aromatic spices.”
The Festival was an initiative of the British Edible Pulses Association (BEPA) whose President Franek Smith says: “It was amazing to see such widespread passion for dal and excitement about the British Dal Festival. We are delighted that so many people came together to support the festival by sharing, feasting on and learning about dal. We hope to make the British Dal Festival an annual event.”
Follow British Dal Festival:
Bristol and South West: Caroline Peel - 07771 957225 - firstname.lastname@example.org
National: Polly Robinson - 07966 475915 - email@example.com
Film-maker Jason Taylor produced and donated a 1-minute film of Sunday's Grand Dal Finale available to view here:
If you use the video please credit The Source: http://thesourceimage.com/
Available to download from Google Drive:
CREDIT: Rebecca Noakes Photography