#ThrowTogetherTuesday: Super easy Daal 3 ways (lentils curry)
Ah, Daal! If you’re Indian, this one is close to your heart. (It’s pretty close to the hearts of almost everyone non-Indian I know as well, interestingly.)
If you’re Indian and vegetarian, sigh… it’s pretty much the Holy Grail. But I often hear Daal spoken of in hushed tones, recounting the wonder of long-simmered gorgeousness. Which is great! But it spells time, yo. Ain’t no Indian people got time for that long-simmering shit in today’s world! We just know how to make it taste like we did. Like a cheat’s Marinara. Not-quite-like-Nonna’s but not too shabby either.
I’m here to tell you… you can do the same for Daal.
We’ve haven’t talked easy meals that you can throw together in a few Tuesdays; so ladies and gentlemen, I give you Daal, no matter what your skill set in the kitchen, appetite for fiddliness, or pimp levels on the gadgetry front.
But first, here is a little note about types of lentils you can use. Lentils are now available in even the most basic of grocery stores. The three most common quick-cooking types are the green lentils (a whole, flat lentil with the skin on), the pink lentils (also called Masoor dal, in an Indian store; this one is a split lentil with no skin on), and the flat yellow lentils (Toor dal; split, yellow and has no skin). All 3 of them will cook on the stove top; boiled, covered tight and simmered on medium-low for 20-30 minutes.
That said, let’s start with Level 1, which quite literally is that process, with a bit of flavouring.
The idea of making Daal at home makes you reach for the closest Indian food take-out menu with a nervous twitch.
Here’s how you start. In a pan, rinse ½ cup of yellow or pink lentils, drain. Put 2 cups of water in, a sliced green chilli (if you like spice, chop it, if not drop in whole or replace with some black peppercorns, ½ tsp of cumin seeds, ½ tsp of turmeric if you have it (or curry powder if you prefer), plus a few cloves of garlic depending on how much you like garlic. Put it on high heat, bring to a boil, cover tight and simmer on low/medium-low for 30 minutes. Open, stir with a whisk to break everything up. Garnish with a spoon of ghee or a spoon of olive oil. Fish out the chilli if you don’t want things too hot. Salt to taste. (Use salt last because it slows down the process of cooking lentils)
That’s basic Daal. Told ya! Easy! Best eaten with rice ☺
If you want to dial that same Daal up to…
You can cook, but you stay in your comfort zone. Gadgetry makes you anxious.
Start with the same wash and drain process. Stick with the yellow Toor dal for this one. Put a tablespoon of ghee or oil (or a mix) into a pan. Drop in ½ tsp of cumin seeds and the same amount of mustard seeds. Add a few cloves of sliced garlic, a small tomato chopped and sauté for a few minutes. Now add 1 tsp of your favourite curry powder and a green chilli if you like heat, along with the ½ cup of rinsed and drained dal. Same process! Boil, cover tight, simmer on medium low for 30 minutes. Open, whisk, add another teaspoon of ghee, salt to taste and a teaspoon of honey or sugar. And you have a slightly elevated, more restaurant-ey Daal Tadka.
If you do have an immersion blender, stick in there and give it a few pulses to make it a smoother, more homogenous mix.
Try this with rice or Naans or other flatbread.
Your food attitude is ‘bring it on baby’. Skills, gadgetry, and attitude on point!
Ok, so you have a pressure cooker (either often used or under your most obscure set of shelves in the kitchen). Now’s when you use it! We’re going to use green lentils for this one. And we’re making more so you can freeze half.
Start with a cup of green lentils, rinse well and soak in clean water while you work on the rest.
Put 2 tablespoons of oil or ghee in the bottom of your pressure cooker. Add a bay leaf, a cinnamon stick, ½ tsp of cumin seeds, ½ tsp of mustard seeds and a few fresh curry leaves (leave this out if you don’t have it). If you have asafoetida powder, put in about ½ tsp. If you don’t, don’t worry. Toast it all together till things splutter (careful, don’t burn it). Chop one small onion and 1 small tomato. Put in the onions and sauté till they’re starting to tinge with brown. Now add in 1 tsp each of ginger and garlic, minced (out of a jar or fresh). Saute till some of the raw smell of the aromatics goes away. Now put in the tomatoes (again fresh or a third of a small can). Let it soften, and cook till you start to see flecks of oil on the onion-tomato mix. Put in two heaped teaspoons of your favourite curry powder (or any blend of chilli powder – ground cumin – ground coriander and ‘garam masala’, if you want to stay on the right side of authentic). Pour in a little water to loosen things up. Cook for a further minute or two. Add in the soaked, drained dal (which would have soaked for about 15 minutes if you started cooking after you rinsed it) and about 3 cups of water. Cover the pressure cooker, seal according to the model you have and let it cook on high pressure for about 15 minutes. Let the pressure subside, open stir well, salt and top with fresh cilantro if you like it. I don’t so I leave it out.
This one has endless variations. Any dal you like, any spices you like, any level of hotness. You can do it in a slow cooker. Do the first few steps in a pan then add the tomato mix and the dal with water to your slow cooker and cook on high for 4 hours, knock back to low and do a few more hours till well cooked. Or low for 8-10 hours.
I think so!
Added bonus? You get to use that base ‘masala’ (till the tomato + spice stage) for pretty mjuch anything. Meat, paneer cheese, canned beans!
Make these Daals your own. They really are pretty forgiving.
Let me know if you try in the comments below or on my social channels (@socialsusandiaz on most)