Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Tadka Dal


Sometimes it is the simplest of recipes that takes time to perfect, to master. For me, it has always been so. Partly, it might  be due to me taking the simple recipes for granted. And partly I may be careless dealing with easy recipes and don’t pay enough attention. Or am I over-confident? I don’t know, but I almost always screw up simple recipes. I handle complicated recipes at ease as I pay too much of attention, care and take good amount of time preparing it. But when it comes to easy recipes I have always been a sucker!! I rush into making it, carelessly throwing in ingredients and then ruining the entire dish or rather unappealing. Dal was a constant victim of such careless preparation. So this time, I planned to do everything slow, taking time and care and adding my love while preparing it. That was it. It was just the way I want.  When you cook something, you have to cook with love for it to be tasty. That is not just saying, that is the truth. One should love what you are cooking, for the outcome to be good.

One of my friends who hail from Pakistan called fouziya prepares very good dal curries. She prepares them at a fast pace, randomly throwing in stuffs, but her recipes always turned out very tasty. She had given me her recipes; I tried them quite a few times long ago but I never got it right. Now that I have been cooking for a while and learned to cook by instincts rather than sticking to a recipe, I should be able to get those recipes right now. I should try them again. 

Dal has always been my easy way out when I am in no mood to cook. It is simple, healthy and requires less effort and time. I prepare them quite often to include great protein in our diet especially when we cut down on our meat intake. This is one of the easiest of dal curries that I prepare for rice and roti. I usually add potatoes, but this time I opted it out as the husband has been repeatedly asking me to prepare dal without potatoes. This is the kind of dal my mother makes. She makes it quite watery for having it with rice, but I like it slightly thicker, so I use more lentils, less water.  This could go even thicker if you reduce the water content. You could also reduce the water and add little coconut milk once the lentils are cooked for a different taste.

I usually slow cook dal over low heat for a good amount of time as pressure cooking gives a different texture to the gravy.  When you pressure cook the lentils, you can see that it gets thicker as it sits. Hence, we would have to loosen the curry later on by adding water which I feel spoils the taste of the curry.  But with lentils being slow cooked in a saucepan retains its texture and flavour throughout and doesn’t set or become thick later on. You also get creamier dal when you slow cook dal and you can control the amount of water that goes it giving it the right consistency. 

Tadka dal is a popular Indian dal curry, which in simple words means tempered dal curry. I guess some call this dal fry as well. Any variety of dal could be used for preparing the curry and then temper it using any blend of spice. I usually prepare it using masoor dal, toor dal and moong dal (Green gram dal). You can also mix 2-3 lentils, but water should be adjusted accordingly. Spices are tempered in ghee or oil to release their flavour and this tempered oil is added to the curry imparting their flavour and aroma to the curry. The spices used differ from place to place and people and accordingly there would be slight variation. Nevertheless, this effortless dish is comforting and is a staple food in India.

This post also goes for the event My legume love affair originally started by Susan of The wellseasoned cook, being hosted by Sra of whenmysoupcamealive.

Tadka Dal
Serves 4
Preparation time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 30-40 minutes

1 cup split red lentils
1 ½ large tomato chopped, 150 g
1 large onion chopped, 200g
3 large cloves of garlic, chopped
2 ½ - 3/12 cups water
1 large potato (optional)
1 teaspoons mild chilli powder or paprika
½ tsp turmeric powder
1-3 green chillies or omit it if you want it very mild
salt – as required
1 tsp oil

To temper (Tadka):
1-2 tbsp coconut oil/vegetable oil or ghee
½ tsp black mustard seeds
2 twigs curry leaves
¼ tsp cumin seeds
1-2 broken red chillies

To garnish:
Chopped coriander leaves.

1. Wash lentils in several changes of water and soak for ½ an hour. Drain the water. Wash and cut the potato into 4 or 6 pieces, if using.

2. Place the lentils with all other ingredients except the tadka in a medium saucepan and bring to boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until the dal is cooked and the gravy is thick. (First add 2 ½ cup of water and if it goes dry, add little by little to get the thickness of your liking).

3. You can also reduce the water and add coconut milk towards the end of cooking, before the tadka.

4. Once the dal is cooked to your liking, temper/tadka it. I like my dal cooked completely, but holding its shape.

For tadka:
1.In a small frying pan or kadai heat oil/ghee.

2.  Add in mustard seeds and when they splutter add cumin seeds, curry leaves and broken chillies and fry for few seconds until the leaves sizzle. Pour it in to the dal. Stir and keep it covered for few minutes to infuse the flavour.

3. Just before serving garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve it along with rice,roti etc.

1.If you want it mild, reduce green chillies and chilli powder to you taste.

2. You can use any combination of dal or use the same recipe with mung dal.
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