Simplicity at its best - Masoor Daal with some nice warm Bhaat
|My all - time comfort food|
Daily home - cooking never seemed to be a very complicated process to me. As a child I saw my mother enter the kitchen around 8 in the morning and she would be done and dusted by 9.30 a.m. ( since baba would have his brunch by 9 before leaving for office). Even today, when I call up my Maa for some information regarding specific use of spices in a particular recipe she would say " oito !! Holud, lonka aar olpo zeere guro.. aar kichuna " ( meaning you just add turmeric, chilli and a little cumin powder and that's that !!). You ask any experienced Bengali home - cook and you will come back with the same answer. This made me wonder why then all Bengali food taste so prominently different? With this doubt in mind I started my independent culinary journey and soon realised, immoderate use of spices generally take the natural flavours off the main components. Spices should complement the dish and must not be exaggerated. Hence, simplicity is the key.
One such simple and staple diet in every Indian household is Daal - Bhaat / Daal - Chawal ( a lentil soup accompanied with some rice). Since a child I have adored Daal. Its packed with proteins (as many knows, proteins are called the building blocks of the body), its versatile and comes with a large number of variations. Although to be honest, I could not name the divergent raw lentils till the time Maa cooked them for me, since they looked more or less similar ( for my naïve eyes ) until and unless I tasted them. I guess, many of us have suffered from the same syndrome for a certain period of time. Despite the fact, even today a prospective daughter - in - law is enquired " sob rokom daal chenoto maa?" ( Do you recognise different types of Daal? ) to get an idea about her commitments toward her husband to - be's stomach..in spite of the fact that hunger can strike any of the two sexes !!
Knowing about my love for Daal, the first thing which my parent could think about gifting me after I started living apart was a pressure cooker. It made my life pretty easy because now, it would technically take just 10 minutes to prepare my comfort food instead of 30 long minutes in an open - pot. Also, the first recipe which I learnt as a child was that of Masoor Daal ( pinkish - orange in colour when raw, so easy to recognise ) by baba who would prepare a fast cooked meal with Daal, Bhaat and heavenly, aalu - seddho ( mashed potatoes ) whenever we returned from a family trip. However, the same Daal tasted pleasantly different when Maa added some fried onions instead of baba's dhone - pata ( coriander leaves ). Because onion in Daal is not a very regular thing in our household ( although quite common in other parts of the country ), this peyaj - deoa masoor daal once in some - while seemed something special. The uniqueness of this Daal is, you use either onion or coriander leaves to get the beautiful flavour of the ingredients, but using them together typically overshadows each other and you will miss out the fun. So, I would suggest, always experiment with food, since there is no one way of eating a particular thing. Use minimum ingredients and with the dash of correct seasonings it might turn out to be a jewel, as Da Vinci truly said, Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.
- Masoor Daal - 3/4 cup
|Pink Masoor Daal|
- Green Chilli - 2
- Dried Red Chilli - 1
- Onion - 1 medium sized , sliced
- Onion seeds / kalonji / kalo zeere - 1/2 teaspoon
- Turmeric powder - 1.5 teaspoon
- Salt ( according to taste )
- Mustard oil - 1.5 teaspoon
- Water ( of course )
- Thoroughly wash the lentils till the water runs clear.
|Ready to pressure - cook|
- Add 2 cups of water along with green chillies, turmeric powder and salt. Pressure cook it. (After a whistle over high flame, lower the flame and wait for 2 more whistles. If cooking in a pot, cook till the lentils are soft and done.)
- After the steam is let off, open the lid of the cooker and use your spatula or a daal - ghutuni to make the mixture uniform. You can add some water to adjust the thickness of the daal according to your preferred consistency. I like mine to be a little runny.
|An uniform mixture|
- Heat the mustard oil in another pot. Add in the onion seeds and dried red chilli. Wait for 10 seconds on medium high flame.
|Hot Mustard oil with dried red chilli and kalo - zeere for tempering the Daal|
- Toss in the onions and fry them over low flame till they are slightly brown.
- Add the daal mixture into the fried onions. Stir everything together and bring it to a boil. Wait for around 3 minutes. Check the seasonings and finally you are done.
|Let it Boil|
|Peyaj - deoa Masoor Daal|
|That rice - well|
Traditionally I make a well out of the warm rice and pour in the steaming hot Daal to get the ultimate fulfilling experience. As a companion to it, I made some Kaanta Chocchori ( a mix of potatoes and fish head ) for lunch. Of course you have some mix veg Chocchori or some Begun Bhaja with it as well. Hopefully you too will like the humbleness and simplicity of this wholesome meal !!
P.S. If you do not want to cut onions, just bypass the step of frying the onions. Instead add some chopped coriander leaves at the end and enjoy that mild fragrance. Its equally satisfying.