Saturday, May 5, 2012

Daal Tadka/ Tempered Lentils

Daal is an Indian Food Staple made with soupy lentils boiled sometimes plain sometimes with a host of other ingredients and tempered to perfection. Daal and rice is a staple food with the majority of Indians, though you will see the geographical diversity in every variation. In North, its more of a thin, soupy Toor dal, while in the South, Mung dal is used for making daal known as Parippu. And both the daals are served with a dollop of ghee, but vary in the tempering. The North Indians do it with a "Paanch-phoran Tadka" and in the South, its either no tadka or just a Curry leaf-Mustard-Red dry chilli tempering. When I married by better half, and started cooking for him, there was just one thing he ever wanted me to perfect and make frequently---It was believe it or not, Daal! For a total Nerd and a pretty complex Man, he loves his Daal-Chawal (Daal-Rice). I had no problem cooking the Daal for him in an almost daily basis, back when we got married, but then I got pregnant with my son. And the raging hormones created such a strong revulsion for any cooked pulses so strong, I would get nauseous even if a distant neighbor cooked some, and a whiff of it reached me.All of a sudden, every kind of Daal, Beans, grams and peas disappeared from my cooking. My hubby, the saint that he is, tolerated the total absence of his favorite Comfort Food, hoping this phase will pass, as soon as our little bundle arrived.But it only got worse...Soon cravings for meats and desserts set in and my poor man had to bend over backwards to accommodate my cravings and kill his own tastes of a more veggie-balanced meal. Even after after little guy came into this world, I couldnt stand the smell of it cooking or the taste of it, even after it was cooked. Slowly, the aversion to the cooking odors diminished with time, but I couldnt bring myself to eat it, which meant, I would make it every now and then. This guilty phase lasted for almost four years until my daughter came along, and then it was a different story. What can I say of  surprises that Nature had in store for me? I actually craved all the starchy goodness and the comfort that daals gave me, this time around in my hormone-driven semi-lunacy, I call pregnancy. If there was a lesson to be learned from all this fiasco, I am still waiting to get enlightened.... to this date.

So...I started making Daals, Rajmas and Choles with a fervor I never knew I had in me. I made Daals, with various temperings, in every geographic variation and gobbled them up along with my hubby, a happy man! I made it the Maharashtrian way, thin and with tiny bits of tomatoes and cilantro, to go with plain rice and a sabzi, or the South Indian way, with split Moong Dal, roasted and thick and with ground coconut and clarified butter, to be served with Pappadoms, I even attempted a Daal Tadka, the Bihari style, with a generous tempering with the Paanch Phoran or the 5 temperings. When I fancied richness, I made a Daal Maharani with rich aromas of whole spices and ground, using whole Toor daal with skin intact, with a dollop of cream on top. It was me-only Daal crazy!!!
Fortunately, the fervor died down sometime in my third trimester and some sort of balance came back. And to our great joy, I neither hated the daal, nor did I cook up a new daal was harmonious old me...BACK!
And though we have absolutely no wish of having another kid and upsetting the current balance in the Universe, by crazy hormones, I decided for finalilty, my hubby's comfort food is here to stay. So here it is one of our many Daal dishes, a simple favorite....Daal tadka

Toor/Tuvar Dal aka Split lentil ---1 cup
(You can use split moong dal too, but be prepared to add more water as it tends to be starchier and thicker)
One medium sized onion---chopped finely
2-3 ripe tomatoes----chopped finely or just cut them into thin wedges
green chillies---3-4 or more as per your preference
Ginger and Garlic, minced finely---1 tbsp each
1 tbsp ghee
1 small stick of cinnamon
4 whole cloves

Toor/Tuvar Dal/ Split Lentils

To Temper:-

2 tbsp ghee
1 tsp Mustard seeds
1 tsp of cumin seeds
1/2 tsp of hing/ Asafoetida
1 tsp of Nigella seeds/ kalonji
1 tsp of fennel seeds

Tadka/ Tempering

In a pressure cooker, put about 1 tbsp ghee and add the cloves and the cinnamon stick and fry them until fragrant. Saute the ginger and garlic on kind of medium heat for 2-3 mins. Dont let them get brown, but when you see them kind of glossy, add the onions and saute well for another 5-6 minutes. Lastly add the tomatoes, and green chillies. increase the heat, and continue sauteing for another 2-3 minutes. Now add the washed, picked dal, add 5 cup of water, a tsp of salt, 1/2 tsp of turmeric and pressure cook for about 4-5 whistles and let it cool on its own. No letting out steam or cooling under water.

In order to save a few fat calories and time, fry the tadka, following the whole spices, and follow the recipe from the addition of ginger and garlic. (wink!)

When its cooled, open the lid and let it sit on high heat until it hits a rolling boil. Check and adjust seasoning. Switch off the heat.
Now we will do the tadka...In a small kadhai or those tempering pans you get, heat about 2 tbsp of ghee and add a tsp of Mustard seeds, 1 tsp of cumin seeds, 1/2 tsp of hing/ Asafoetida, 1 tsp of Nigella seeds/ kalonji, 1 tsp of fennel seeds and wait until the mustard seeds crackle. If you want curry leaves, add them now. And carefully pour the hot tempering into the daal mixture. Give it one stir and close the lid and let it get permeated into the dal, and you are done!


When its ready to serve, add a bunch of chopped cilantro/coriander leaves on top or stir it in and serve hot.

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