Mussoor dal #2

Yield: 4 Servings

Measure Ingredient
1 cup Red lentils (up to)
2½ cup Water (up to)
2 \N Serrano peppers
¼ teaspoon Turmeric (maximum)
1½ teaspoon Oil; more or less, or clarified butter (up to)
¼ teaspoon Cumin seeds
1 \N Handful chopped onion
\N \N Salt to taste

While a fancy dal is nice from time to time, I much prefer simpler preparations. For these simpler dals the procedure is as follows: 1. Boil the dal till 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. Expect some spitting.

3. Pour the boiled lentils in, salt to taste, remove from heat.

4. Clock time: about 30 minutes. Real hands-on time required: ~ 5 minutes.

Here are two implementations, using red lentils (mussoor dal): (Measures are American, and not critical anyway. I don't measure.) Procedure:

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.

Also, you will have problems with stuff boiling over if you cover the pot completely.)

3. Pierce the sides of the peppers (or slit them), and drop them in. Boil gently, almost covered, till the lentils are completely cooked. If necessary, add some water along the way. The end product should be fairly fluid. The lentils will still have some structure, but it will be more flaky than granular. Remove the peppers, homogenize the mixture with a hand mixer, drop the peppers back in.

4. Prepare the tarka as follows: Heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds.

Stir-fry for a few seconds. Add the chopped onions, and sautee at medium heat.

5. Pour in the cooked lentils. Salt to taste. Serve.

CAUTION: ADDING THE LENTILS TO HOT OIL MAY CAUSE SPLATTERING. 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.

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.

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