Dal Tadka – Tempered Yellow Lentils


Sinfully Spicy- Dal Tadka, Tempered Yellow Lentils

If you ever chance upon a dinner or lunch in India, dal or lentils is a must thing on the meal table. In north indian states it could be a choice between kaali dal (black lentils) or dal tadka (the yellow ones) but in other parts, quintessentially, it has to be the yellow one. Generously tempered with a fat (ghee, coconut,mustard or sesame oil) &  the crackling spices – cumin, asafoetida, curry leaves or mustard seeds, it is further flavored with garlic, ginger, tomatoes, onions, chilies (both green & red),turmeric and even jaggery (sugar).Essentially dal is quite an aromatic and soul nourishing food.

I like to compare dal preparation in Indian homes to the roasted chicken in the west. It is such a simple thing to make but the taste of dal can vary easily between two cooks.Comforting and satisfying food compounded with warm, smooth texture and laced with hints of spices. Every home has its own way of making it and that recipe is no doubt the best, certainly better than how it is done in your home (in case we get into an altercation ever!). We eat dal on days when we are sick as well as on days when we want to feast.Mostly severed with a spicy pickle (green mango in our house) and dollops of ghee on top, steamed basmati rice is the best vehicle for dal. In India, dal sums up the daily protein chunk for majority of indians who are pure vegetarians especially the ones who refrain from eggs also.

Between me and the husband we are poles apart when it comes to a favorite dal. For me its the black lentils which, at some point, I could eat every day with rotis (flatbread) but he is more of a chawal (rice) – dal kind. Since I mostly lost a knack for lentils after my pregnancy (its both amazing & weird what giving birth does to you!), he is having it his way in the house now.I usually mix a couple of lentils whenever cooking and the toor/arhar (split pigeon pea lentils) are an important ingredient here. Sadly I haven’t spotted it in regular or bulk grocery stores here so you might want to visit an indian/pakistani store to get it.

 

Ingredients (Makes 4 servings)

  • 1/3 cup arhar/toor dal (pigeon pea lentils,husked & split )
  • 1/3 cup masoor dal (red lentils,husked & split )
  • 2 tbsp moong dal (golden lentils,husked &split )
  • 3 tbsp finely chopped onion (I use red onion)
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped tomatoes (I use Roma tomatoes)
  • 1 fat garlic clove,finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp finely chopped fresh ginger (optional)
  • 1/8 tsp hing (asafoetida)
  • 1/2 tsp ghee, melted
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
  • Salt
  • 3 cups water +more
  • 1/4 tsp amchoor (dried mango powder, substitute with fresh lime juice to taste)
  • Chopped Cilantro

For Tadka (tempering)

  • 4 tbsp ghee
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2-3 whole dried kashmiri red chilies
  • 1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp red chilli powder (adjust to taste)
  • 2-3 whole red chilies

Notes –

  • The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time could be more. Also keep in mind that you use either all split or all whole when choosing lentils for this recipe
  • Hing or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form. It aids digestion & is used more often than not in indian cooking, also a little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to dal but can be skipped if you do not have it.
  • If you are vegan, use any oil in this recipe instead of ghee. Coconut oil might not be a very good choice since the spice selection in the recipe does not go great with it but you can use any neutral oil.

Method

Thoroughly wash all the lentils under running water 2-3 times. Drain and transfer the washed lentils to a pressure cooker and add 3 cups of water. Let soak for 10 minutes. Add chopped onion, tomatoes,garlic, ginger(if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 1 whistle (This cooking time will depend on the quality of lentils, so adjust). Take off the heat and let sit on the counter till the pressure releases out of the cooker.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, use a heavy bottomed pot with lid and cook the lentils for around 30- 40 minutes or till completely tender.

Once you open the lid, add amchoor to the dal. With the help of a whisk or a spoon, thoroughly mash the lentils so that they are creamy. If you like a thinner consistency of dal, add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, return to the stove and let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat.

While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds and let crackle. Also add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the garlic and let it cook for 30 seconds or so taking care that it does not burn.(Tadka can become very hot very quickly, take care that you act fast so that nothing burns.) Put off the heat and add the red chili powder. Immediately add this tadka to the simmered lentils and close the lid so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.

Top with chopped cilantro and serve.

Kesar Kulfi

Late Summer. The days are filled with blueberries and peaches and cherries before the seasons changes.This year we had an overdose of summer bounty in the house since most of our produce shopping was from Costco, there was hardly a day when we were out of fruits.May sound impatient, but I want those crunchy sweet tart apples and soft pears and ruby-red  pomegranates and rest these berries till next summer. In lieu of new, I picked up my first fresh figs this summer (yup, it took me five odd years to do that since I moved to the States) and kind of liked them but still didn’t understand the craze. The ones I ate though sweet,had a slightly slimy aftertaste so maybe they were unripe? Anyhow, the evenings turn up sooner and are much cooler than a past few weeks back.We are having a few rain spells every ten days or so which I am liking a lot since those are rare in this part of the world. I am barely able to decide if the air conditioning should be turned on or not all night even though I am waking up cold for last few days.

Talking of few weeks back, I broke my blender jar, it came shattering down on our tiled floor.The following day my year old Panini maker gave in as soon as I plugged it in. I smelled smoke and saw a spark. Short circuit. Dang. In the latest, every time I use it, I hear a scratchy sound while our food processor runs,looks like it will join that gang soon. Good lord. Just wondering if all the universe has joined hands against my kitchen equipment or is it really a coincidence?

The only good thing that happened was this kulfi, laced with saffron threads and sweet cardamom aroma.I badly needed to make something comforting to calm me down.A childhood ice cream treat from the streets,as kids we licked a few sticks each afternoon from the kulfiwalla(vendor) who visited our neighborhood. Needless to say, it was dirt cheap (may be few cents if you convert the currency) but came with huge flavor and texture. Traditionally, whole milk is simmered for hours and hours till it reduces to half its volume, the fat goes up and so does the sugar and protein content.Flavors are then added and its frozen immediately, no churning or custard business needed here.   As time and occasion permits,these days it also depends on how cranky the toddler is, I use either ways to make kulfi, sometimes I start with whole milk and sometimes with cans of evaporated milk or half and half to shorten the process.  This time, the husband offered to watch the little one and I took the traditional route – just like how mum used to make it at home filled with toil and sweetness of love.

Ingredients (Serves 6)

  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1/4 cup mava (milk solids, see recipe here to make your own, omit if you do not have)
  • 1 no 14oz sweetened condensed milk can
  • 2 tbsp fine rice flour + 2-3 tbsp whole cold milk (to dissolve)
  • 1/4 cup almond meal (or any nut of choice)
  • 1 tsp heaping saffron threads+ 1.5 tbsp warm whole milk (to dissolve)
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom powder
  • Silvered almonds to serve 

Notes

  1. This recipe yields a lightly sweet kulfi (which is how it should be) but you can add more condensed milk or sugar as per taste.
  2. Addition of mava lends the kulfi both richness and a chewy texture but it can be skipped.
  3. Ideally, kulfi is not creamy, rather lightly chewy and grainy.
  4. You could use cornstarch in place of rice flour
  5. Substitute almonds with any kind of nuts (pistachios, cashews)

Method

In a heavy bottomed pot, bring milk to a boil. Once the milk is boiling, reduce heat to low and let cook down with constant stirring. You do not have to stand by the stove but check and stir every 10-12 minutes so that the milk does not stick to the bottom or sides of the pot.You will need to keep on scraping the side of the pot while you stir.  Depending on fat/water content of the milk it could take 3-5 hours for the milk to reduce to half of its volume.

While the milk is cooking, crumble or grate the mava (if using),there should be no lumps. Set aside. Dissolve the rice flour in cold milk and let sit. Crumble up saffron threads between palms of your hands and dissolve in warm milk. Set aside.

Once the milk has reduced, it will be light brownish in color, much thicker in consistency. Add the rice flour slurry to the pot with continual stirring (so that no lumps are formed) and let cook for 5 minutes on low heat . The mixture will thicken further and become smooth. Add the mava next and cook for another 5-8 minutes so that it softens a bit.

Remove from heat. Add the condensed milk, almond meal, dissolved saffron and cardamom powder to the milk mixture and combine well. Let sit to cool down,

Pour into kulfi moulds or popsicle moulds. Freeze for 24 hours with lid on.

Once ready to serve, use a sharp knife to loosen the edges and unmold the kulfi. You could run the mould under a stream of water to loosen it. Serve as it is or sliced up with nuts and falooda (recipe here)

Vegetable Fried Rice

With the summer in full swing, this easy fried rice is suddenly a favorite in the house for quick meals.Combining deeply flavored,saltiness of dark soy sauce with nuttiness from sesame oil, the sweet crunch of fresh vegetables and hints of aroma from indian spices, this rice comes together in no time if you have a big rice portion leftover from last meal. The recipe can be twisted and turned to suit the occasion and the crowd you are serving to – add any assortment of vegetables (or fruits – pineapple, apricots, raisins)and any protein you like. Though a warm bowl is good on its own but I like to make hot chicken or manchurian along side sometimes for a hearty meal.Someone like me who prefers flatbreads to accompany our meals is enjoying it a lot.

 I had conveniently forgotten but when WordPress wished me a lot many years to fly with them, I realized!! Four summers. It has been four years of sharing little anecdotes of my life and recipes with all of you.Sometimes I wonder how much memories from life back in India and childhood or teens could my mind still retain even though I always thought otherwise. It has been a gratifying journey so far. Thank you for the love and support.This blog has been a wonderful nook to share and connect with all you who are hungry for indian food. Thank you so much for your interest and loving my country’s cuisine.

Coming back to the recipe, I quite marvel at the brilliant concept of fried rice in asian cuisine. From Thai to Indonesian to Filipino, each fried rice is different yet wonderfully flavored. I have talked about indo chinese cuisine in my past posts and this recipe is another addition to that collection. This indian style fried rice  stems from the chinese variant but the use of spices lend it notes of warmth and aromatic smokiness. I have been making fried rice for many years and have learnt a few things through trial and error. I guess this is the right post to share my little tips with you.

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 .5 tbsp pure sesame oil
  • 3-4 fat garlic pods, finely chopped
  • 1 Thai green chili, slit
  • 1/3 cup red onion, finely sliced
  • 6 scallion stalks, green & white parts chopped separately
  • 3/4 tsp ginger, minced (adjust to taste)
  • 2 cups shredded/julienned vegetables (I used cabbage, green&red bell pepper, blanched green beans, carrots)
  • 3 cups cooked rice, cold
  • 2 tsp dark soy sauce
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • scant pinch of turmeric powder
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp red chili flakes (adjust to tolerance)
  • 3/4 tsp Chilli tomato Sauce (I use this, you could use ketchup or 1/2 tsp tomato paste)
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 tbsp white vinegar (adjust to taste)
  • 1.5 tbsp butter, melted (optional, see notes)
  • chopped cilantro

Notes

  • Adding butter at the end may seem a bit unusual, but this is a small secret I learned from the husband who makes some mean fried rice. Try it.
  • The rice from the this recipe has pronounced hints of ginger, you can omit or cut down the quantity if you do not like it.
  • You can vary the ratio of neutral oil to sesame oil based on your liking. You could even cook using either of the oils, I am just sharing the ratio that we prefer.
  • Add tofu, fried egg, pre cooked shrimp,chicken or any kind of protein in the recipe just at the end and warm it through with the rice.

Method

Heat up the sunflower & sesame oils in a wide skillet or pan ( I use 12″) on medium high. Add the garlic and green chili to the oil and sauté for 20-30 seconds or so till you see tiny blisters on the chili skin. Take care that the garlic doesnt burn. Add the red onion next along with white scallion parts. Saute for 2-3 minutes on medium high till the onions soften and begin to turn light brown.At this point add the ginger along with the chopped vegetables.Sprinkle a pinch of salt and let the vegetables cook for 2-3 minutes till they are tender but not mushy and still have a bite. (This time will depend on how thick/thin you have cut the vegetables).

Next turn the heat to lowest possible on your stove and add the cold rice to the pan.Also add the soy sauce,turmeric, garam masala, red chili powder & chili tomato sauce. Toss around so that the rice is covered in all therse . Check and adjust the salt (remember that if you are adding butter at the end, it has salt too). Turn the heat to medium for a minute or so till the rice is warmed through.Do not stir too much

Put off the heat and while the rice is still warm, add the green scallion parts, vinegar, butter(if using) and chopped cilantro. Using fork or chopsticks toss around and serve immediately.

Enjoy & Thanks for stopping by!