I guess ‘picking’ the lentils is a ritual followed in many indian homes, even though most of the lentils available in the markets these days are clean and processed. It’s a kitchen habit that is passed from a generation to other, more as a traditional than need. If it’s not an arduous number of hours to be spent, a vigilant scan of the beans and lentils is what I go through each time I am about to wash or soak.
Ingredients (Serves 3-4)
Cooking the Lentils
- 3/4 cup chana daal (bengal gram lentils)
- 1 tablespoon ghee (or use oil for vegan version)
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1 large tomato, finely chopped (yield about 1/2 cup)
- 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, finely chopped (optional, adjust quantity to taste)
- 1/4 teaspoon hing powder (asafoetida)
- 2-3.5 cups of water (adjust depending on the desired consistency)
- 1 small bottle gourd (peeled and cut into 2″ batons)
- Lime juice to taste
- Chopped fresh cilantro to garnish
For the Tadka (Tempering to be added after the lentils have cooked)
- 3-4 tablespoon ghee (or use oil for vegan version)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 1 small clove
- generous pinch of hing powder (asafoetida)
- 1 small red onion, finely chopped (about 1/2 cup)
- 2-3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2-3 dried whole kashmiri chillies
- 1/2 teaspoon red chilli powder (or to taste)
- Replace lauki (bottle gourd) with your choice of summer squash (yellow squash is a good choice over green ones). You can skip the squash all together too.
- The cooking time mentioned in this recipe are for split lentils. If you use whole lentils the cooking time would be more.
- Hing or asafoetida is a strong, aromatic spice available both in crystal and powdered form.A little goes a long way. It gives a unique flavor to daal 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 any neutral oil or olive oil is fine.
Thoroughly wash 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 30 minutes. Add chopped tomatoes, ginger (if using), hing, ghee, turmeric and salt. Put on the lid and pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 3-4 whistles (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 95% cooked.
Once you open the lid, with the help of a whisk or a spoon, mash the lentils a bit so that they are chunky-smooth consistency. I like my lentils to have some texture, however you can mash them to consistency desired.
Add the chunks of lauki and return the pressure cooker to the stove. Cover with a plate or a lid and let simmer (not pressure cook) on medium heat for 15-20 minutes until the gourd is completely soft. If you like a thinner consistency of dal, add a cup or more of water.If you add extra water, let simmer for another 5-7 minutes on medium heat. Ideally, for this kind of daal, once it’s cooked, the grain should be intact in its shape but completely soft or cracked to look at.
While the dal is simmering, make the tadka. In a small sauce pan, heat up the ghee. Add the cumin seeds & clove, let crackle, about 15-20 seconds. Add the whole dried chillies and let them turn darker in color. Lower the heat and immediately add the onions and garlic and let cook till they are golden brown, taking care not to 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 cover so that the aroma infuses. Let sit undisturbed for 10-15 minutes.
Scatter with chopped cilantro and serve warm.