I have been planning to do this series for the longest time. I regularly get emails asking for basics to be shared and I have even done a series on Know your Ingredients
, another on Indian Basics
. However one exactly showcasing on "How to learn to cook" or the basics that would help a novice to cook, was not done. Every time I make a simple dish, I wished to do, though time was never appropriate.
So when I had made a simple, quintessential Dal, Chawal and Subzi, thought I would keep the dal to the simplest, to ensure I can start this post. This version of dal is something I have had my North Indian Colleagues get for their lunch. They normally use a mix of Split Moong dal and Arhar Dal/ Toor Dal, whereas I decided to use de-husked Masoor Dal.
There is another simplest and quicker version of Masoor Ki Dal
, however today's dal is at it's simplest as well.
For today's "Learn to Cook Indian Food", I am starting with a basic and simple North Indian Dal.
The everyday meal is mostly Dal, Chawal and Subzi. The Dal used is seasoned very mildly and can simply be enjoyed with Rice and a Side Dish or Subzi. The subzis are mostly vegetable based dry/ semi gravy dish, that can be paried with the rice and Dal.
For today's meal, I made Shahjeera Puloa, with Masoor Ki Dal and Aloo Fries.
When cooking lentils or dals, it's always best to use a pressure cooker. Makes our task so much easier. Depending on your water and what you are cooking, you can cook the dal directly or soak overnight.
Lentils like Split Moong, Masoor dal, hardly needs soaking and just two whistles in a pressure cooker is enough to get a mushy dal. Infact for Moong, I usually switch off before it even hits one whistle. Today's dal was pressure cooked for two whistles and then tempered with spices.
The first basic step in making a dal would involve washing the dal couple of times, pressure cook with a pinch of Turmeric and a few drops of oil. The turmeric and oil aids in getting the dal cooked much faster.
Second step would be in tempering the dal with Indian spices. Depending on the region, the spices change. Any dal or gravy has a mix of spices, green chili or Dry red chili or Chili powder used. At times, some use green chili paste as well.
Onions and tomatoes are added depending on, what you are pairing it with.
Most North States use cumin for seasoning. Some parts use Hing as well. Bengali and Biharis use Panch Phoron
, while in south a mix of Urad dal, Mustard seeds are used. The whole Spice Blend
used in South Indian Cuisine is mostly used for Sambars
Souring ingredients, like tomato, tamarind or lemon are added again according to the dish. While most south indian dishes have either tomato or tamarind added, many North Indian dishes have lemon added.
In today's dal, it's a simple flavouring done with a tadka of ghee, cumin, bay leaf and then onions along with green chilies.
Wash and take the masoor dal in a pressure cooker along with turmeric powder, oil. Add with twice the amount of water, cover with lid and pressure cook for 1 - 2 whistle.
Once the pressure falls down, heat a non stick pan with ghee and temper with cumin seeds, bay leaf, Saute well.
Then add chopped green chilies, chopped garlic and finely chopped onions. Saute till the onions are browned.
Now add the boiled dal and mix well. Add 2 cups of water and simmer for 5 mins. Towards the end add the red chili powder and curds, cook for another 10 mins.
Masoor dal gets cooked very quickly, so just 1 - 2 whistles are enough. To get the creamy texture, simmering for 10 mins is enough.