Ok, so many of you have been not so happy with me as I do not have a post up on my blog for 'Dal' yet. What's my excuse? Nothing really. Its just that Dal is such an everyday thing at our house (I could practically make it in my sleep). No, I'm not showing off, Dal really is an everyday thing if you grow up in an East Indian vegetarian family. It is the main source of protein. Also, dal is an amazingly inexpensive way to feed a crowd (and boy, is it nutritionally dense or what?), so it is a staple of the East Indian diet. Oh, you're not sure what dal is? Check it out here.
But, the reason why we all love dal is not because it is cheap, or it makes nutritionists do the approving nod. It is simply because it is comfort food at its best. For hubby and me, nothing beats hot dal and rice when we are feeling very tired, gloomy, cruddy, or have just returned from a trip. In fact, J counts on me making dal for him when he returns from a business trip. I've told him that the day he comes home from a trip and finds a turkey sandwich for dinner, he knows he is in DEEP trouble :-)
Many of my friends ask for my standard dal recipe. However, it is a bit more complicated than that. There are over 25 varieties of dals that I make. Each uses a combination of, hmmmm lets see --different type of lentil, different seasonings, different vegetable matter, etc. So, how about this. I propose to familiarize you with many different types of dals over the next few months. Now that
winter fall is here in Seattle, I can promise you we will be eating a lot of dal to cure the SAD.
Anyway, without further delay, below is the recipe for a delicious dal called Dhaba dal. The name comes from the fact that you see this combination of lentils very often in roadside huts or 'dhabas' in India. The Urad dal used in this particular preparation lends a very comforting texture. Might take some getting used to, but I promise, it is quite addicting in a mom's cookin' sort of way.
Oh wait! One last, but important thing before the recipe.This is regarding the proper way to cook dal. Most Indian households own a pressure cooker. If you don't have one, PLEASE get one. They are great! If you don't want to use one, be prepared for long cook times, or use one of those slow-cooker thingies. I am all for making dal occasionally in this stove-top fashion, but if you eat it as often as we do, you gotta go get a pressure cooker. If you do, it is sheer magic. Soak the beans overnight, and you can have dal on the table in 30 minutes. Bet Rachel Ray can't beat that!
Dhaba ka Dal
Serves 4 to 6
Adapted from Tarla Dalal
1/2 cup dried urad dal (split black lentils), with skin on
1/2 cup chana dal (split bengal gram)
1/4 cup dried rajma (kidney beans)
1 tbsp ginger/garlic paste*
1 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 serrano or thai chilis, split in half
1 cup finely chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp red chili powder
2 tsp fresh cumin powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
2 tbsp vegetable oil , or ghee
2 tbsp salt (more/less to taste)
1. Clean, wash, and soak the urad dal, chana dal, and rajma in 6 cups water overnight (or at least 6 hours).
2. Drain the soaked dals and rajma. Add 5 cups water and pressure cook for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the dals are completely cooked. If not using a pressure cooker, cook on stove top in a large thick-bottomed pan, covered. You want the dals (and rajma) to be completely cooked, otherwise the texture of the finished dal suffers.
3. Heat the oil. Add the ginger/garlic paste, onions, and green chilis. Saute for 5 minutes, till the onions are slightly pulpy and golden brown in color. Add the turmeric, chili powder, and cumin powder, and saute for 1-2 minutes more.
4. Add the tomatoes and tomato paste. Cook over a high flame till the tomatoes get mushy, approx. 5 minutes.
5. Add the cooked dals with the cooking water (if you have too much water, reserve some. You can always add it back later, but overly-thin dal is not good). Mix well, add the kasuri methi, and simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Add the cilantro, heat another minute or so, and serve with roti and/or rice.
* I make my own ginger-garlic paste. Take equal parts ginger and garlic. Puree in a food processor, and freeze flat in a ziploc bag. Break off what you need, and you're good to go. If you really really really must, use the bottled ginger-garlic paste. I can't stand the stuff. Smells chemical-ly to me. I think you'd be better of using fresh minces ginger and garlic.