I was having a hard time naming this recipe of dal which is a generic name for Indian lentils in Hindi. What you think dal actually is ? A soup? A stoup? A stew ? Its certainly not a curry that is what I'm certain of. I actually kind of get irritated when every Indian dish is named as curry. So I decided to stick with soup!
Just like you can choose the thickness of soup you make, dals consistency also depends on your choice. Some people like it more soupy and others like it thick. But the most common way of having it is just the right consistency to go with rice. Dal (lentil) chawal(rice) is in my opinion best way to enjoy this simple, nutritious recipe.
For the short time that I lived in India (3 years) dal often felt like a uniting food. Back in Rajasthan, where I spend most of my time, the people I worked with were mostly vegetarians! That often made it difficult for us to share food at work. Of course, there were times we shared vegetables but dal bought an excitement to everybody's face! Can you imagine something being vegan doing that to someone?
Dals are hearty, healthy, nutritious and affordable. They are also very versatile. The recipe I'm sharing with you today can be tweaked in many ways, which I often do for a tasty twist on a regular dish. I shall mention them as notes below. Its worth mentioning that the same recipe for dal is made in different ways in different homes. Some people just boil all the ingredients in a pressure cooker and top its with tadka ( Hindi word for "tempering" ). Others first do the tadka and add the boiled ingredients to it. And many others do tadka, add the lentils and then boil them. Even though I had my mom's most trusted and loved dal recipe, I tried all the other methods and can safely say Mom you win!
This is a mix dal recipe which basically means there are 5 different dals used here. Don't let that scare you, you can (which I often do as well) just use toor dal (the main dal in the mix) i.e. pigeon pea and get a lip smacking Toor Dal. If your have toor and masoor ( red lentils) you call this toor masoor dal. You getting me right? You can snatch that , match this and make interesting variations! Having said that I do have a ratio I follow when I mix all of this. Remember toor dal is the star, others are supporting actors. I'm so bollywood!
Mix Tadka Dal
Makes for 2 meals
1/2 cup split Toor dal / pigeon pea
1/4 cup split masoor dal/ red lentils
1/4 cup spit moong dal /green gram
1/4 cup split urad dal / black gram
1/8 cup split chana dal / bengal gram
1 red onion (sliced)
2 green chillies (adjust to taste)
1 tbsp ginger garlic paste/ 2-3 cloves garlic and 1 inch ginger finely chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilly powder
2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp whole black pepper
2 tomatoes (diced)
If you haven't gone abusing me after reading all those dal names, I feel obliged to show you how each of this dal looks!
Wash your lentils well. In a pressure cooker (if using, if not in a deep bottom pot) add the lentils, onions and green chillies. Fill with water. You should atleast fill it till it drowns the lentils and water comes to 2 inch above the lentils. If you want your dal thinner you can always add water later on.
Don't add salt. Not now. It makes dal's life difficult. If you are using a pressure cooker, cook the dal on medium high heat upto 3 whistles ( This could differ with different types of cookers. You need to get a hang of your pressure cooker). If you are using a pot, cover and boil till all the dals have cooked through and have started coming mushy!
(It looks almost ugly at this point)
For the tadka, heat olive oil. Add black pepper, cumin seeds, ginger and garlic.
Note: 1. You could use ghee or neutral tasting vegetable oil instead
2. If I have curry leaves on hand I add it at this stage
3. You can also add a tsp mustard seeds at this point.
4. I also add fenugreek seeds, love the aroma!
Once the garlic looses the rawness, add the spices - turmeric, red chilly and coriander powder.
Note : I add the soft stalks of coriander leaves at this point. I love that variation. I call it herbal dal then, which feels so hip!
Add the diced tomatoes. Let them cook and get all soft and saucy. Add the boiled dal to it. Add salt to taste.
(Still looking ugly)
Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes, keep whisking to make sure all the dal has dissolved into the water. At this point add more water if you want to thin it out.
(Sorry! I couldn't resist showing the bowl!)
Garnish with coriander and serve with rice and wedge of lemon.
We love to serve it with rice, dahi (yogurt), papad ( Indian cracker, which is not really a cracker), acchar (Indian pickle) and onion salad!
True Indian Star!