Living the Good Life…

My food blog & cookbook in progress

More daal dishes

Now that the basics have been covered, let’s get creative. Daal, possibly the largest source of proteins for the vegetarians and vegans amongst us, is combined with other ingredients – vegetables, meats, and oh yes, spices – in such infinity of variety that you could have a table full of different preparations and not even realize that all the offerings have  the same ingredient! Like many other pages, this one is an ongoing page subject to additions and updates.

Daal & Spinach

This dish works well with one or a combination of husked daals – moong, chana, toor, or masoor. Either fresh or frozen spinach will do just fine. Cook the daal with salt, turmeric a pinch of asafoetida and a small pat of butter until mostly done, having first soaked it for a couple of hours if need be (chana and maybe toor daal benefit from soaking, the other two cook fast without any help). If desired, you may also add some pieces of ginger peel and a bay leaf while boiling the daal. Some 5-10 minutes before the daal softens completely, fish out the whole seasonings and add a generous quantity of chopped spinach. If using frozen spinach wither defrost it and squeeze out the water and chop the leaves or add the entire frozen mass to the daal earlier in the cooking process. Fresh spinach should be washed, picked clean and chopped before using. If available, combine spinach with fresh fenugreek leaves for a more piquant flavor. Cover the pot and continue cooking till the leaves are wilted. In a separate pan heat some oil (or oil and butter) with a teaspoon of mustard seeds, a few grains of fenugreek seeds and a pinch of asafoetida . When the seeds begin to sputter add some chopped ginger, a handful of peanuts (without skins if possible) and 1-2 dried red chillies. Add the contents of the pan to the daal and let sit for a few hours to let the flavors develop. Do not boil the daal again when reheating, simply warm it gently. You may stir in some freshly squeezed lemon/lime juice just before serving as well to brighten the flavors. This dish is great with either rice or chapatis.

Mixed vegetable kootu

Suggested veges include carrots, peas, green beans, potatoes, cabbage, and pumpkin (or any other squash).  While all the following may be used in one single go, I tend to use a trio of complementary colors and textures each time. I have never tried this dish with sweet potatoes myself but combined with beans they might actually work well. Avoid vegetables like eggplants, okra, and cauliflower as either their textures or flavors don’t combine that well with the others or with the daal. This recipe also works well with just spinach.

Cook the daal or mixture of daals as in the previous recipe with salt, turmeric, asafoetida and butter. Add the veges, in order of their needed cooking time – for instance, In the last 5-10 minutes of cooking, add your preferred combination of vegetables cut into a large chunks. If using potatoes, add them earlier in the cooking process. Squashes tend to need less time as they become too watery or mushy otherwise. Meanwhile in a separate pan roast about 2-3 tablespoons of channa daal, black peppercorns, and some cumin seeds. As the daal starts to turn color, add several tablespoons of  desiccated coconut and turn off the heat. Stir the mixture letting the heat of the pan toast the coconut. Cool slightly and grind into a powder and add mixture to the daal, and let simmer for a few minute. Avoid letting the mixture boil. Before serving this season with some mustard seeds and cumin seeds in hot butter or oil.

Kootu is a typical dish made in southern India, and I grew up eating various versions of it. In our family we typically eat it in a meal with rice and a second, tangy and spicy accompaniment such as vata korzyambu, or a vegetable chutney (toghayal). Though not considered a party dish back home, I find that my non-Indian friends love it, and so often serve a version of it as part of a South Indian menu.

Whole Masoor with onions and tomatoes

Credit for this basic recipe goes to a much-loved Aunty – Jayanti, whom I always associate with grace and sweetness. Boil or pressure cook whole masoor daal with one chopped onion, a pinch of turmeric, chilli/cayenne pepper and of course salt. You can also add the pat of butter or ghee. To those familiar with the pressure cooker – one whistle should be enough – otherwise cook still the daal is well done and softened but still holding it’s shape. Crackle some cumin seeds in oil (or oil + butter) and fry 1-2 chopped tomatoes with 1 hot green chilly (optional) and a pinch of powdered coriander (tasty but not 100% necessary). Add this mixture to the daal with some additional water if required. Serve hot, garnished with chopped cilantro alongside rice or chappatis.

Variation – who would have thought that a last-minute ploy to extend the previous recipe would yield such popular results? This particular adaptation has been included especially for my friend Tim Warren, who like Jane can, it appears, live on daal 7 days a week. Basically I cooked up half a cup of yellow split peas/chana daal with chopped onion & turmeric and a pinch of asafoetida (to aid cooking not for flavor)  in the pressure cooker (2 whistles), and added it to a batch of leftovers from above. Once again I sautéed tomatoes along with some fresh ginger for added flavor and cumin and chillies and added it to the mix and warmed thoroughly. If making this sort of mixed daal from scratch, begin by boiling the longer cooking ones (chana daal takes the longest) and add the quicker ones halfway through the process. Or pressure cook the slower daal and add contents to a pot of the faster one that is cooking normally. If using a crock-pot then just add all daals at once, with onions, and 2 – 2 1/2 volumes of water along with a pinch of salt and turmeric  and cook until well done. Then fry up tomatoes etc as before and add contents of the crock pot and bring to a boil with additional water if needed and serve.

Variation 2 – A fuller version of this alternative was posted a very long time ago on my other blog. The post was aptly labeled “Mother Hubbarding” because I literally mined a nearly bare cupboard to make this version–hard unripe plums were a tomato substitute. It worked well though.. do try it.

Madra (Daal with dry fruit in a yoghurt sauce)

This dish is an adaptation of a daal preparation from Himachal Pradesh, containing an interesting combination of spices and other ingredients not typically associated with daal in the rest of the country. It’s a perfect dish for the winter, rich and warming. Typically made with garbanzo beans or the smaller darker and harder chana, I’ve also found the recipe to work well with the whole black adzuki beans and black-eyed beans. Rajma (red kidney beans) have also been touted as a good alternative, although I prefer to stick with the classic punjabi style recipe for that one.

Soak and boil the beans until done but with a tiny bit of bite to them still. In a relatively heavy pan heat ghee (or melt butter) with a a tiny bit of oil, and add a pinch of asafoetida, along with the following whole spices (as many as you can find): cinnamon stick, green (several pods) and black (1 pod) cardamom, a bay leaf, and fennel seeds. When spices begin to brown (in under a minute) add some turmeric and if desired, finely chopped green chillies (it is not traditional but I like the flavor and bite) and then about 1/2-1 cup of beaten yogurt. Add the yogurt carefully in batches and not all at once, stirring continuously to prevent curdling. Once it is all in the pan, continue stirring until all of it is cooked down and the oils nad butter start to seperate. Add the cooked daal (with it’s cooking liquic), salt, a pinch of cayenne (red chilly powder) sugar (again optional) and a mixture of nuts and dry fruit (cashews, almonds, coconut, raisins and if handy, dried apricots (again something I’ve not seen in the traditional recipes but that is really good). mix well and allow to simmer until flavors are blended. Just before serving, add one more dollop of ghee if you wish. Serve with rice or chapattis.


  Swiss Kitsch « Peregrine chronicles wrote @

[…] daal (first recipe on page) using yellow split […]

  tim warren wrote @

I am honored to be mentioned in your variation on Whole Masoor with onions and tomatoes. It was delicious indeed when you served it last Thursday. I can’t wait to try cooking it myself. Some daal every day keeps the doctor away!

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