This post describes one of my favorite new Indian main courses, a simple dish I have made multiple times over the past few weeks. What makes this discovery that much more interesting is that I found it in an unlikely place - a cookbook that I had written off a few years ago. The cookbook in question is Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking, which I had tried five years ago and had declared "simple" and bland." And so to the bookshelf was the book relegated until I decided to give it a new try this summer.
The dish I tried with success - though heavily modified - was the Gujarati Dal or "Mixed Lentils and Vegetable Stew." The features of the recipe that I liked and kept was the mixing of dals or Indian lentils for the base of the dish, as well as lots of ginger, garlic and ghee which added a lot of deep flavors to the dal. The recipe components that I changed or did away with were to remove a lot of the vegetable ingredients to result in a recipe that would mostly rely on what I had at home, instead of requiring a trip to the store. Below is my heavily modified recipe and instructions - definitely a new favorite weeknight meal in my house!
Mixed Dal, Based on Julie Sahni's Gujarati Dal
- 3/4 cup of mixed dal, consistently roughly of 1/4 cup of each toor dal, channa dal, and moong dal (simply what I have on hand - the original recipe uses four types of dal: toovar, masar, channa and moong)
- 1 tomato
- 1/2 tsp. ground turmeric
- 1 tbsp. fresh ginger
- 2 tsp. garlic, minced
- 1 green chile, sliced
- 2 tbsp. butter (substituted for 4 tbsp. (!) of ghee)
- 1 tsp. black mustard seeds
- 1 tsp. cumin
- Few pinches of asafetida
- Chopped cilantro, to taste
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Rinse the dal mixture well - you can pre-soak if you would like, but I have omitted this step.
- Bring rinsed dal and enough water that covers the mixture by approx. 1/2 - 3/4 inch to a boil (use less water if you want a less soup-y dal - you can always add more water during the cooking process).
- While the dal is heating, chop the vegetables to your preference. Add the turmeric, ginger, garlic and chile to the dal as it gets warm (or when you first heat up the dish - your preference, I like to save time by chopping the vegetables as the dal is coming to a boil).
- When the mixture starts to boil, reduce heat to a simmer, partially cover and cook for approx. 45 minutes - 1 hour or until the dal is fully cooked. Stir every 10 to 15 minutes to ensure the dal is not sticking to the bottom of the pot.
- Remove cooked dal from the heat, and mash with a masher or puree in a blender until your preferred consistency - I prefer slightly chunky, so just hand mash with a potato masher.
- In a separate pan or pot, melt the butter on medium-high heat. When it is fully melted, add the cumin. When mustard seeds become hot and start popping (use a splatter screen if you prefer to avoid getting hit by the mustard seeds), add the cumin seeds and asafetida, quickly stirring for 10 - 15 seconds. Then add the tomato and cook on medium heat for approx. 3 - 4 minutes or until the tomato chunks start to break down.
- Add this butter/spice/tomato mixture to the cooling dal pot, and bring that pot back to a simmer on medium-low heat. Add salt to taste and cook for 10 - 15 minutes until hot and the tomatoes reach the consistency you would like. Garnish with cilantro and serve.
- This dish can also be made a day or two ahead of time, or you can just make the dal ahead of time and add the spices day-of.