Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Posted by Bina
Simple, everyday food. No elaborate masalas, no fancy ingredients......not even a garnish on this one! Yet, Dal and Chaval (Dal and Rice) says home to me like no other food does. I am pretty sure it is the same for anyone who grew up eating Indian food. A bowl of piping hot dal and rice......ok, maybe some papad on the side - my definition of a completely satisfying meal!
Dals are legumes (lentils, beans and peas) and are a rich source of protein and fiber as well as folate and iron. The legumes as well as the cooked dish is called dal.
A pressure cooker does a quick and easy job of cooking dals. However, many dals ( like masoor and mung) can be cooked in a saucepan within 20-30 minutes. Dals do tend to foam while cooking but you can skim off the foam and if using a pressure cooker, adding a teaspoon of oil will reduce the foaming. Dals can also be combined with different leafy greens (spinach, amaranth, fenugreek, collard greens etc), sour fruit(raw mango, tomatoes, tomatillos), squashes and crucifers (cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli).
Most of the dals one buys in stores nowadays are free of debris and small stones but it is a good idea to give it a quick check before cooking and also rinse them well to get rid of any debris.
The most common way to season dal is by tadka (vaghar, chaunk, popu) where you heat some oil and/or ghee in a small saucepan and add spices (which differ by region). The spices infuse the oil with wonderful flavors and aroma and when added to the dal, elevates it to the sublime! You can also vary the consistency of the dal by adjusting the amount of water. The consistency can vary from dry, to puree-like, to thin and soupy.
My most favorite dal is my Amamma's (grandma) tuvar dal that she used to dry roast in a brass vessel over a wood fire, and then season it simply with salt when it was almost done cooking. The memory of that dal with feshly cooked rice and a dollop of ghee has me drooling even today. I can still see myself as a five year old, sitting on the floor in her kitchen while she roasted the dal - me chattering away in English (a language she barely understood) and she speaking in Telugu (which I spoke very little of), yet somehow managing to communicate and bond.
1 cup Pigeon peas (Tuvar dal). You can also use Red lentils (masoor) or split Mung dal.
2 cups water
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup (1 large) tomato, chopped
1 green chili
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp canola oil or ghee (or a combination of both)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
salt to taste
Wash the tuvar dal 2-3 times until the water runs clear. Pressure cook the dal in 2 cups water on medium heat for about 10-15 minutes. After the pressure is released, open the lid of the cooker and add more water depending on the consistency you prefer. Add the turmeric and start boiling on a medium flame. If you don't have a pressure cooker, you can use the red lentils (Masoor dal) which will take about 20 minutes to cook in a saucepan and will need about 3 cups water. The split Mung beans will take approx 30 mins to cook and will need about 5 cups water.
Heat the oil in a small pan on medium high heat. Add the cumin and once it starts to turn brown, add the garlic and green chili and cook till the garlic starts to turn golden brown.
Add the tomatoes and cook until they get soft and slightly mushy.
Transfer this mixture to the dal. Add the cilantro and cook for 2-3 minutes. Add salt to taste.
Serve with rice (preferably Basmati).
* You can also make this with a combination of dals (tuvar or masoor, moong, urad and chana) and add some finely chopped/grated ginger and chopped onions along with the garlic. When cooking beans, I also add some garam masala and cumin-coriander (dhania-jeera) powder.
Here's a recipe for a very simple, spiced rice that tastes wonderful with just about any dal .
2 cups Basmati rice, rinsed 2-3 times in cold water.
1/2 cup carrot, chopped
1/2 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1 inch piece cinnamon
2-3 bay leaves
3 tbsp canola oil
salt to taste
Heat the oil in a pan large enough to hold the rice. Add the cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and bay leaves. Once the spices start to change color, add the vegetables and cook for about 2 minutes.
Add 4 cups water and bring to a boil. Add the rice and salt. Once this comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium low and cover with a lid.
Cook on medium low heat till done.
* I use a rice cooker for this. Add the rice, water and vegetables to the cooker followed by the spices in oil (described above) and cook till done.
This post was written by Bina
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