It’s an Indian home so we can’t help having dal almost twice a week. Blame it on the taste but I just cannot do without my daily bowlful of lentils. On days I don’t make dal we have rasam with a protein packed veggie. Dals can never be boring as we have a wide variety of pulses and beans in India, all thanks to our tropical climate. We use tuvar dal (pigeon peas),moong dal (mung beans), saboot moong (whole mung), masoor dal (pink or orange lentils), whole masoor and chana dal (bengal gram) on a regular basis. The basic procedure is the same for preparation for any dal but each has its unique flavour and taste.
Amongst my favourite lentils is bengal gram or chana dal for its rich, nutty flavour and bright colour. Here’s a method to reduce the gassiness caused by dals shared by a friend of mine who is a nutritionist by professiona. Soak the lentils for half an hour in hot water, rinse and drain the water. Do this once or twice more and then cook as usual. You will also find that it cooks faster which is great as it saves fuel, time. Add minced ginger and garlic and a pinch of asafoetida (hing) if you want to be doubly sure about your health.
I use mustard oil to cook dals and in preparing most North Indian vegetable based dishes for its unique flavour and taste. Most people shy away from using mustard oil because of its raw, pungent flavour. The trick is to heat mustard oil first to smoking point, then remove from heat to lower the temperature. Once cool, it should be heated again to required cooking temperature. This not only removes the pungent odour associated with the oil but is said to neutralize the effect of certain chemical compounds that are not considered good for consumption.
Dish: Chane ki dal / Masala chana dal / Bengal gram lentil
Time taken: 1/2 hour including time to cook the lentils
Bengal gram / chana dal – 200g
(Soaked and rinsed twice as explained above and then pressure cooked to 3 whistles without salt or turmeric)
Onions, chopped fine – 1/2 cup
Tomatoes, chopped fine – 1/2 cup
Garlic, minced – 4 cloves
Ginger, minced – 1″
Green chillis, minced – 2
Salt, chilli powder and turmeric as per taste
Mustard oil – 2 tbsp.
Cumin seeds / jeera – 1 tsp.
Asafoetida / hing – 1/4 tsp. or a pinch
Curry leaves / kadi patta – 1 sprig (optional)
A wedge of lime, sticks of ginger and coriander leaves
Mash cooked dal slightly till it comes to a rough texture after keeping aside 1 cup. Mix the dal set aside with the mashed dal.
Heat mustard oil in a wok till smoking hot. Cool to room temperature by putting off the stove. Re-heat to moderate and temper cumin seeds followed by asafoetida and curry leaves. Add minced garlic, ginger and green chillies and saute till the garlic turns golden brown. Alternatively, garlic, ginger and green chillies can be minced together and added at this stage.
Add onions and saute till pink, followed by addition tomatoes. Add a pinch of salt and close the wok letting the tomatoes cook and sweat out their juices for about two minutes. If using less oil, keep an eye on the wok so as to prevent burning. Add turmeric and chilli powders at this this stage as desired.
Remove the lid and add the roughly mashed pulses. Mix well and adjust consistency by adding at least 2-3 cups of water, preferably hot. Bengal gram dal tends to thicken more than other pulses so you may be liberal with the water if you need to serve it later. Adjust salt, squeeze a dash of lime if desired, garnish and serve hot with phulkas or rice.