Dhal is one of the staple Indian dishes and also the simplest often considered being a comfort food to many Indians. This is usually one of the first baby foods mixed with rice and given in puree form. Growing up, I remember my mom using a wooden masher known as mathu for mashing up dhal in a vessel. Usually this mathu is used along with a clay vessel or a stainless vessal and is mainly used for mashing lentils until the desired consistency is reached.
A simple dhal preparation usually consists of a few basic seasonings along with the cooked lentils and is served as an accompaniment for rice and chapathis. A bigger variety of red lentils also known as toor dhal are predominant ones for a basic dhal recipe. Other types of lentils like moong dhal or channa dhal are also used for dhal preparation; sometimes even a mixture of lentils is also used. These lentils when mixed with a few spices and vegetables or greens are a complete and balanced meal by itself when served along with rice.
Sambar, a kind of spicy lentil and vegetable stew, is a very famous dish in south India. This is served along with idlis (steamed rice and lentils cakes) or dosas (rice and lentil crepes) for breakfast and with rice for lunch along with any spicy side dishes.
The main seasonings in a simple dhal are mustard seeds, cumin seeds, broken red chilies or green chilies, asafetida, and curry leaves. Asafetida and curry leaves add a nice delicate flavor to the dhal. The recipe I have shared here is my mom’s. She makes this quite often and this is a main item on festival days served as an offering along with rice. We always use a pressure cooker (that is the fastest and easiest way) for cooking the lentils. The preparation time is about 15 minutes.
1. Red lentils or toor dhal, 1 cup.
2. Tomato, medium size, 1.
3. Turmeric powder, ½ teaspoon.
4. Mustard seeds, ½ teaspoon.
5. Cumin seeds, ½ teaspoon.
6. Broken red chilies, 2.
7. Asafetida ¼ teaspoon.
8. Curry leaves, 5-6.
9. Salt as per taste.
1. Dice the tomatoes and keep aside.
2. . Wash the lentils once or twice until the washed water runs clear. Add the lentils to a pressure cooker and add 2 cups of water and the turmeric powder. Cook for 15 minutes or for 3-4 whistles until the lentils are cooked. The cooking time varies depending upon the pressure cooker. Once the pressure is released mash up the lentils using the back of a ladle or a masher.
3. Heat a pan with a tablespoon of oil. Once the oil is hot, add the mustard seeds and let it splutter. Then add the cumin seeds, asafetida, and broken red chilies and fry for 2-3 seconds.
4. Reduce the flame and add the diced tomatoes and curry leaves. Sauté for a few minutes until the tomatoes are cooked.
5. Add the mashed lentils along with salt, mix everything well, and let it simmer for 10 minutes.
6. Garnish with chopped cilantro and serve as an accompaniment for rice and chapathis.
Variations: Sometimes the tomatoes are cooked along with the lentils and the seasonnings are poured over the mashed lentil mixture. In this preparation, the tomatoes will be completely mashed up along with the lentils.