Tag: lentils

Garam Masala Tuesdays: Punj Rattani Dal

Dals are an integral part of Indian meals. In some form or the other, they are eaten daily in almost every Indian home.

Dals- lentils or pulses- are varieties of dried beans and peas. They are the main source of proteins for the average vegetarian Indian. Although dal generally refers to split pulses, in actuality there are two types of dal. Whole pulses are known as sabūt dal and split pulses as dhuli dal. The hulling of a pulse is intended to improve digestibility and palatability, but as with milling of whole grains into refined grains, this affects the nutrition provided by the dish, reducing dietary fiber content

Each state in India cooks its dal in different ways.  In south, dal is mostly eaten in the form of sambhar. People of Uttar Pradesh swear by toovar dal which is tempered with asafoetida, cumin seeds and sometimes garlic. Punjabis love their dal whole and unhulled, in the form of the delicious dal makhani, or rajma to accompany their rice or chole with their bhaturas.

When I have to describe dal to people in America who haven’t eaten it, the easiest way is to give them a picture of a lentil soup, although dal is a far cry from just a simple soup. The dal that we have is not as watery as soup, generally being creamier (without necessarily adding cream). A well cooked dal is generally quite thick, but sometimes just to keep it light, people thin it down a bit, such being the case for some of the dals that are cooked in southern India.

The tadka or the tempering is what gives a dal its distinct flavor, and is probably what distinguishes it from soups.

Tempering involves heating oil/ ghee in a small pan, to which whole spices are added, which in turn is poured over the cooked dal. Tempering can be simple with a little asafoetida and cumin seeds being tempered in some ghee/or oil, and then mixed in with the cooked dal. Or it can be elaborate by tempering some onions, ginger, garlic and tomatoes in ghee/oil, before adding to the cooked dal.

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Garam Masala Tuesdays: Dal Makhani

A week back, on this day- Tuesday, I started a new thing on the blogGaram Masala Tuesdays or as someone I know put it GMT (I tell you, these things are not intentional- they just happen 🙂 !). This Tuesday its my second post for Garam Masala Tuesday and even though I have been in no mood of cooking- it has been a 2 1/2 months long break from cooking– but I had to post something today. How can I start something a week back and not live up to the promise!

Since I had to post, and there were no two ways about it, I thought I would make something that would not require too much effort. And, something that I knew V had eaten rarely in the last 2 1/2 months. And something I love quite dearly. So it had to be Dal Makhani.

Dal Makhani is the quintessential Punjabi dish (Punjab is a state in the northern part of India). Dal means lentils and makhani means buttery; so, literally translated dal makhani reads “buttery lentils”. Dal Makhani, butter naan and butter chicken are staple to Punjabi food- the above three and rajma chawal are always top of every Punjabi’s favorite food list.

Dal makhani is a rich, creamy lentil dish that is traditionally cooked on a low simmer for hours in a pureed tomato and butter gravy. Traditionally, the dal was cooked by leaving overnight on burning charcoal. It is also called Maa ki Dal. Though Maa means mother in Hindi,  Maa is also the name given to whole unskinned black lentils and hence the name for the dish.

If you notice, the common thing to most Punjabi dishes is, yes, you guessed it- butter. Ah, butter- utterly butterly delicious butter! Being a north Indian and a hard core Punjabi, now you know the reason behind my affinity to butter and the reason for my tendency to put on weight. Well, tradition is a tough thing to break from and when tradition comes in the form of butter, you know the battle is lost!

There are lot of different versions of this dish but I like this one as its easy and the results are always great. Plus, there is no chopping involved in the recipe I use (that is exactly why I chose to make it today). And requires very little time in the kitchen. It does take 2 hours for the whole preparation but you are not required to be in the kitchen the whole time.  This dish is great even the next day- so feel free to make a day before you plan to serve it. The dish is great both with rice and with Indian flatbreads like chappati/roti or naan.

Note: Some time back I had posted another lentil recipe. It is one of V’s recipe and IT IS GOOOOOD! Do check it out!

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I finally got it!! V had been guarding his lentil recipe all this while. For the uninitiated, V makes this awesome toovar dal (cooked lentils) in the slow cooker. This was the recipe that got him by his bachelor days. And uptil now he wouldn’t tell me how he makes it. He always throws me out of the kitchen whenever he makes it (which has been twice before) so that I don’t get to know his secret recipe (rolling eyes).

Now, for days I had been craving his dal, with some rice. And since the rare occasions that he cooks fall on Sundays and all the previous Sundays we have been out- that craving just kept increasing. Finally, the Sunday that went, V decided to give in to my cravings and set his foot in the kitchen. 🙂

Haha! This picture of V just cracks me up!

Haha! This picture of V just cracks me up!

This time though, he was willing to share his secret!! Well, the opportunity to be featured on my blog- not just in photos but as an actual contributor- that was too big for him to pass on, so he let me in on his secret.

So there I was, with my phone in hand taking down notes and pictures while V explained how his dal is made.

Here’s how to make V’s Crockpot Dal:

What you need for the slow cooker:

  • 1 cup split pigeon peas (toovar dal)
  • 3.5 cups water
  • 3 roma tomatoes, cut in big slices
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • Salt, to taste

Take the dal (split pigeon peas), and wash it properly. Add the water, tomatoes, turmeric and salt. Put the lid on the crockpot and turn it on HIGH. Let cook for 4 hours.

After 4 hours, the lentil should be cooked. Now comes the part that holds the key to the dal being so freakingly good.

The secret to his dal, according to V is the tadka (the tempering of spices).

For the tadka, you need:

  • 3 garlic cloves, cut lengthwise, in slivers
  • 2-3 tbsp ghee (V adds more, I think but, so that I don’t freak out he mentioned a “smaller” amount)
  • 3 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp coriander powder
  • 1-2 tsp red chilli powder

To temper, heat clarified butter (ghee) to a real hot temperature in a saucepan. Add the garlic, fry til they turn brown. Add the cumin, coriander and red chilli powder. (You might want to open a window, because the spices do tend to get into your system). Fry till it looks a little burnt. (I confirmed with V and he said thats how its supposed to be.)

Add the burnt looking tempered spices to the crockpot and quickly close the lid. After a few seconds, lift the lid- with a ladle take out some dal and put in the saucepan used for tempering. Scrape out any remaining spices in the saucepan, and add the liquid back to the crock pot.

Serve it warm with rice and some curd. The dal has a very strong flavor of garlic but I think thats what adds to the beauty of it. 🙂