As promised, here is the written recipe to accompany the latest episode of Aarti Paarti!
This is probably the first Indian thing I ever made. It’s your basic dal recipe, and I bet every mother makes it a little differently. When made well, it is so satisfying that you really don’t need to eat anything else, even though it’s nothing more than lentils, water and tomatoes. Oh, and the holy trinity of Indian cooking: turmeric, chili powder/paprika and asfoetida (aka hing). I only have one bowl of it left after we demolished it for dinner last night, and you best believe that I will fight Bren, dodge all his Krav Maga offenses, in order to eat it myself!
My mum’s basic Dal
(For those of you checking this recipe out because of the Next Food Network Star, the version I made on the show used red lentils only. It won’t make a big difference either way. I’d encourage you though to invest in some black mustard seeds. Once you try them, you’ll be hooked, just like me!)
1/2 cup masoor dal (red lentils)
1/2 cup toor dal (split pigeon peas)
(alternatively, just use 1 cup of either one)
1 onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2″ piece of ginger, peeled and minced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 serrano chile, sliced in two (optional)
2 cups water
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp (generous) turmeric powder
1/2 tsp paprika (or bafaat powder if you have it)
1/4 tsp asfoetida (hing)
1/2 sprig curry leaves
2 extra cloves garlic, whole, with papery wrapping still attached
Handful chopped fresh cilantro
1) Sort lentils, picking out pebbles and shmutz. Wash under running water, and then cover with water and soak for 30 minutes.
2) In a 3qt saucepan, combine water, onions, garlic, ginger, tomatoes and drained dal over a medium-high flame. Cover and bring to a boil. Skim any scum that has built up. DO NOT ADD SALT YET. It will toughen the lentils, thereby elongating their cooking time. Turn heat down until dal mixture is gently simmering, cover and cook 30-40 minutes until lentils are tender, almost translucent and almost falling apart.
3) Whisk the dal, releasing its natural starch and mashing some of the more delicate pieces so it thickens the soup. Add salt. I use about 1 tsp of kosher salt.
4) In a small skillet, over a medium-high flame, warm 1 tbsp vegetable oil. In a small bowl, combine cumin and mustard seeds. In another bowl, combine spice powders. Have all the ingredients ready to go because this will move very fast!
5) Once oil is shimmering, add garlic. Allow the outsides to toast a little, turning a light brown, then throw in seeds and immediately cover so you don’t get covered in spluttering oil and seeds!
6) Once the spluttering dies down a little, grab the curry leaves and chuck ‘em in. Again, immediately cover the skillet until the spluttering dies down. It should smell like heaven in your kitchen right now!
7) Finally, add the spices. They should sizzle and bubble a little — that’s the blooming and it’s exactly what you want. Don’t let them burn however. Let them bloom for about 30 seconds, no more.
8) Pour the oil mixture into the dal, standing back so you don’t get hurt when the mixture splutters again. Stir all the oil, seeds, spices and garlic into the dal. Finish with a handful of chopped fresh cilantro and serve!