Perhaps it is because two thirds of the country is under rain-fed farming conditions that Indian cuisine uses a wide range of pulses and beans. Many pulses are hardy and drought resistant and cultivated by small farmers across the country. Daal, the generic term for a dish made with pulses, is a staple in many Indian homes and it comes in many forms depending on the variety of pulses as well as the herbs and spices in the tempering. With the exception of rich daals like Dal Makhani, most daals are light and provide a good combination of protein, fibre and minerals. Masoor ki daal made with split lentils has become a regular in our house because it is so quick to make and very satisfying with rice and yoghurt. Real comfort food!
Serves: 4 Cooking Time: 30 mins
You will need:
- 150 g split red lentils
- 200 g ripe red tomatoes, chopped or 2/3 of a tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1 tbsp cooking oil
- 1 tsp brown mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seed
- 1/2 tsp asafoetida
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- 1-2 hot green chillies, slit lengthways
- Salt, preferably sea salt
- Small bunch of green coriander, chopped
Wash and drain the lentils and set aside. Heat the oil in a deep pan (with a lid). After a couple of minutes on high heat, the oil should be very hot (not smoking hot). Add the mustard seeds and let them splutter. Now add the cumin seeds and let them fry for 10 seconds. Turn the heat down and add the green chillies. Let these sizzle in the hot oil for a couple of minutes to release their heat into the oil. This will then infuse the entire dish with the lovely flavour of green chillies. So much mellower and nicer than red in my opinion. Now add the asafoetida and the turmeric, stir and immediately add the washed lentils. Stir them to coat with the spiced oil. Add the tomatoes and three cups of water. Add half a teaspoon of unrefined salt, the chopped tomatoes and coriander and give the mix a good stir. Cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for about 15 minutes or until the lentils are cooked. It is best not to under or over-cook them. Under-cook and you will end up with a daal that tastes like it is made of little starchy pellets and over-cooked daal loses its texture and some of the taste too. You can test the daal by squeezing a lentil in between your thumb and index finger. If it disintegrates easily it is cooked but if there is an opaque, hard centre, it needs cooking for another few minutes. Taste the daal and adjust the level of salt. If it is not hot enough for you, add some red chilli powder to spice it up. Serve with freshly cooked rice, yoghurt and lime pickle.