Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Dal Tadka My Way !

Everybody loves Dal! No? I mean, what's not to like? Wholesome, versatile and ultra comforting. Dals and it's different versions have reached the far corners of the world and to prove myself right, I will have you know that I once met a lady from  Azerbaijan, who was not only familiar with this Indian favourite but even knew how to cook it! Holy moly smoking hot! In return, I was embarassed to realise I did not even know much about her country, leave alone it's cuisine. Anyhow, I was quite delighted to hear her version of the everyday-dal recipe and how authentic it seemed. Bless her.

Dals or lentils are a staple in every Indian household. A runny or thick soup like lentil curry if you will, served with plain steamed rice and a side of any dry stir fry vegetable or meat or just plain with chutneys and pickles. If there are no sides, just a wedge of fresh lime and green chillies will do. Mix together with rice, a dollop of desi ghee and feel the luuurve! And it is best eaten with your hands. I cook dal and its varieties everyday. My boy loves it and you may find it slightly incredible but all Indian kids grow up on this. It can be perhaps comapred to your regular cheese n mac the American kids trip on. It is almost like a ritual, all kids come back from school and expect a hot bowl of Dal and rice. Standard. And a sure child-pleaser. Mommy is hassled and had a bad day, cant/wont cook anything fancy, she will make a big pot of Dal. That's how ubiquitous is it. and so easy too. Most Indian homes have pretty much a set recipe, although definite variations do exist according to the region you come from. So you can have dals made with veggies, with meat, with fish even, with spices or without, slightly sweet or really tangy, with ghee or without but yes, the basics more or less remain same.

I am going to share a simple, standard recipe for the 'everyday' dal. I make this all the time. It may sound a bit tedious (it is not but anyway) but I will give you an easier way to do it too. Here's what you will need.

1/2 cup or 2 handfuls of Arhar dal , also known as Toor dal/Pigeon peas,washed and soaked in water
1/4 cup or 1 handful of Lal Masoor dal, i.e red lentils , washed and soaked in water.
Either of the two- 5-6 cloves of garlic or 1tbsp heaped grated ginger. (I prefer ginger)
1 large tomato, grated or blended in to a paste
1 tsp cumin seeds
1tsp turmeric powder
1 fat pinch of Asafetida
1 dry whole red chilli
salt to taste
1tbsp of desi ghee or butter or any vegetable oil. Do not use any smelly oil please.

1 medium sized thinly sliced onion, fried/caremlised and kept aside to garnish
1-2 green chilli slit lengthwise to garnish
1tbsp of fresh corriander leaves to garnish
1 fresh  lemon to garnish or squeeze over the dal, according to pref and optional.

Start by boiling the dals in a pressure cooker by adding 2 cups of water, tomato paste, turmeric and salt to taste. The tomato paste gives the dal a lovely texture, colour and consistency. You can adjust the consistency of the final prep by adding more water if you like it runny. I keep it medium thick but completely mashed up since nobody in my house likes the dal grains to be whole. Another tip a kashmiri friend gave me was the use of red lentils or lal Masoor dal when cooking the main Arhar dal, does add a nice flavour.

Note: some of you may not be using a pressure cooker in which case, soak the dals for as long as you possibly can and simply set to boil on the stove top on medium flame, with the same ingredients. Arhar dal takes time, which is why I recommend soaking it for long. I am talking at least 3-4 hours. This will soften them up thus reducing cooking time. If you are using your stove top, add one tsp of oil, which will keep the dal from boiling over because it does tend to foam up a lot. You may cover and cook on low heat as well. Just ensure the water does not run dry or the boil over.

Once your dal is cooked to a soft mushy consistency, turn off the heat and keep aside after mixing it thoroughly and mashing it up with a rounded spatula. Next up is the tempering or 'tadka' as we call it. Take a sauce pan or a medium sized wok, and heat desi ghee in it. When the ghee is hot, start by tipping in the asafetida, cumin seeds, dry red chillies, as it starts to splutter, chuck in the garlic pods or the grated ginger. Only either of the two. Keep the flame low. Stir it around untill slightly golden brown. Turn off the heat and pour over the cooked dal. Sit the dal again on low flame for about last five minutes while the flavours integrate well. Stir gently. Let the dal come to boil once and then pour in to your serving bowl. Garnish with caramelised onions, fresh corriander leaves, green chillies and lime. Serve hot with steamed basmati. You can also serve some more melted desi ghee on the side in a pretty bowl for everyone to pour a small tsp over the dal-rice and get prepared to be bowled over by this simple, hearty fare everyday!

Comfort in a bowl!

The easier way I mentioned earlier, is to simply heat ghee, add all the ingredients for tempering, let it brown which takes 2 minutes max in hot ghee, add washed dals, turmeric, salt, tomatoes chopped fine or it's paste and pressure cook. Garnish and serve the same way in the earlier method. Done. However, if you cook dal on the open flame, remember adding tomatoes will really prolong the cooking time, so you can either leave it out altogether or add it in the very last, after you know the dal is properly cooked, is on a rolling boil, add tomatoes at this stage and let cook and integrate.

1 comment:

  1. I will try adding masoor dal....we Gujarati also like to add sugar/Jaggery in our tasks dal :)