Mussoor Dal

Course : Curry
Serves: 1
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1 cup red lentils
2 cups water, to 2.5
1 medium serrano chiles -- or 2
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/8 teaspoon kalonji
1 teaspoon oil or clarified butter salt to taste

Preparation / Directions:

1. Wash the lentils. Add the water, bring to a gentle boil. Some scum will develop, from lentil dust, and surfactants in the lentils. Skim it off. 2. Add the turmeric powder. (Doing this before the scum is removed causes the turmeric to float up with the scum, and it is then lost. If you do not skim the scum off you will have problems with the mixture boiling over.) Do not postpone adding the turmeric too long. Undercooked turmeric is not nice. 3. Pierce the sides of the peppers (or slit them), and drop them in. Boil gently, almost covered, until the lentils are completely cooked. If necessary, add some water along the way. The end product should be fairly fluid. 4. Remove the peppers, homogenize the mixture with a hand mixer, drop the peppers back in. 5. Make the tarka: Heat the oil, preferably in a wok, which makes it easy to deal with the very small quantity of oil. Add the kalonji. 6. As soon as it stops sizzling, add the cooked lentils rapidly. You may want to let the oil cool briefly, so that splattering is avoided. See caution below. There are risks for the careless. 7. Salt to taste (0.5 to 1 tsp), mix, simmer briefly, serve. Implementation 2 Materials: As before, except: skip the kalonji use somewhat more oil add: 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cumin seeds 1/4 cup onions, chopped Procedure: 1. The only difference is in the tarka. Cook the lentils as before. 2. Prepare the tarka as follows: Heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds. Stir-fry for a few seconds. Add the chopped onions, and sauté. 3. Pour in the cooked lentils. Salt to taste. Serve. Caution Adding the lentils to hot oil may cause splattering. If you are not experienced at this, allow the oil to cool first. Also, against the intuition, there will be more splattering if you get too gentle about pouring the lentils into the oil. If you add the cooked lentils rapidly, the oil gets swamped quickly by the lentils, and splattering is avoided, even if it is hot. At the same time, rapid addition of hot fluid involves some risk of splashing it around. The safest way to deal with this is to let the oil cool down, then pour it into the cooked lentils (instead of the other way around), and then use some of the lentils to rinse the rest of the tarka into the main container. Respect hot oil. Accompaniments The first implementation, in particular, is one of the most common ways in which red lentils are made in Bengal, where I'm from. It is usually served with rice, a wedge of lime, and fried potatoes. Mix the dal with the rice and potatoes, squeeze the lime over it. Eat. If you want to serve this with bread, use less water, so as to get a thicker consistency. By some small margin, I prefer the first implementation with rice, the second with breads. Chappatis in particular. Fried potatoes Cut potatoes into 0.5" to 0.75" cubes. Optionally, parboil the potatoes and drain. Sprinkle with salt and turmeric. Fry over medium to high heat. I have a strong preference for the parboiled version, but lack the technique to do it consistently. Notes: If one uses vegetable oil, the recipes are vegan. Ghee is better to my palate, in which case, the recipes are lactovegetarian. Please feel free to use whatever subject header you please. A fair number of dal recipes have been posted here in the last couple of months. Many have been a bit more elaborate than the dals that Indians cook every day. While a fancy dal is delightful from time to time, I prefer the simpler ones most of the time. These are utterly simple dishes. They work, or they do not work. There is nothing to hide behind, nothing to salvage. And it is possible that a preference for these simple dishes is acquired. For a simple dal, the procedure is as follows: 1. Boil the dal until it is cooked through. 2. Heat a little oil or clarified butter in a wok. Stir fry the spices for a few seconds, to produce what we call the tarka or phoron. Expect some spitting and foaming during this step. 3. Pour the boiled lentils in, salt to taste, remove from heat. Total real hands-on time required: 5-10 minutes. (Comment on ingredients: Implementation 1 uses a spice called kalonji, often referred to as "black jeera" or "black cumin". This looks like small chips of obsidian. It does not look remotely like cumin, nor does it taste like cumin. Labels may be ambiguous, since I have also seen dark cumin seeds labeled as "black cumin". Stay conscious of this. If someone knows a proper English name for kalonji, please let me know.) Here are two implementations, using red lentils (mussoor dal): (Measures are American, and not critical anyway. I don't measure.) Source: Shankar Bhattachary

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