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Home Cooking Always Does the Trick

January 31, 2010

After a rough Sunday, I needed something to lift my spirits. Since there was no snow in the forecast — or pop-tarts — I found myself craving some home cooking. My aunt lives two blocks from me and I drop by every now and then when I need a good meal. I had an upset stomach all weekend, and she had exactly the right remedy: white rice, mashed red potatoes with just a little bit of butter and plain dal, the lentil soup that is a staple in most Indian homes. The recipe is quite simple:

– 1/2 cup Masoor dal (red split peas, available in Indian grocery stores or some Whole Foods stores)

– 1 teaspoon of a mixture of five spices: cumin, mustard, fennel, black caraway and fenugreek seeds (my aunt mixes equal amounts of each seed in a large jar to keep for frequent use)

– half of a large tomato, diced

– handful of cilantro leaves, chopped

– 1 teaspoon oil

– salt to taste

1) Rinse the dry lentils, then boil in 2 cups of water and a pinch of salt. Skim the foam as it forms on the surface of the water and discard.

2) Continue boiling the lentils until they change from red to yellow. The lentils should be soft and the water should be soup-like. Turn the stove off.

3) While the lentils are boiling, heat the oil and the spices in a separate pot. When the oil starts to pop around the seeds, add the tomatoes. Fry the tomatoes until they start to soften.

4) When the tomatoes have begun to wilt, add the boiled lentils. Mix and boil until the soup is of the right consistency: if you prefer your soup lighter, then add more water. If you prefer more of a lentil stew, then let some of the water boil off.

5) Add the chopped cilantro and salt to taste. Serve warm over rice, or in a bowl with warm Indian bread.

Thanks to my aunt for the recipe — and the meal! Sorry it’s not more exact, but after decades of making dal, she doesn’t use measurements anymore …

Note (from 2/18): My aunt mentioned this to me a while ago, and I just now realized that I never added it to the post. A variation on the dal is to chop up a small onion and mince a few cloves of garlic. Saute them in the oil in the third step, instead of using the spices. A good tip if you don’t want to go out and buy a ton of spices but still want some yummy Indian goodness.

One Comment leave one →
  1. mallika permalink
    February 19, 2010 1:11 pm

    Ishita, you should also mention how Mani made mashed potatoes. Indian mashed potatoes are truly just mashed potatoes.

    The recipe is very simple:
    1. Boil the potatoes with skin on (if bigger than 3 inches, cut in halves) until they are soft (skin will start peeing off in some spots).
    2. Take them out from the boiling water and drain.
    3. Remove the skin and mash them by hand or with a spoon to break all the lumps.
    4. Add 1 tsp. of ghee (alternatively, 1/4 of a butter quarter) or 1 tsp. of mustard oil and salt to taste.
    5. Mix them well.
    6. For spice-loving people, mash some green hot chilies (you can get them in Indian/Korean stores) to taste.

    It’s mmm mmm mmm …

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