A preparation of pulses (dried lentils, peas or beans), dal is a regular accompaniment with Indian meals. Dal recipes of varieties such as toor, chana, moong or masoor.
A touch of garlic can transform a simple dal to an exquisitely flavored delight. Light and soupy, lasooni dal (garlic-tempered dal) is the perfect accompaniment to rice/chapatis and a vegetable side dish.
Of leaf vegetables, my kitchen staples are spinach and fenugreek. Till a while ago, cooking with amaranth greens was unchartered territory for me. What better way to start a new year, I thought, than with tackling a new beast?
I had been reading on the goodness of this power food (no wonder that the word "amaranth" comes from the Greek amarantos, meaning "unfading" ) often of late, and then learnt that amaranth in Hindi is chaulai, the leaves of which my grandmother used in chaulai saag. That got me curious, and I was soon trying ways to cook amaranth in my own kitchen.
Amaranth leaves with lentils has come to be a special favorite. I love to mix and match, and this recipe puts that to great use: it’s a combination with boiled dal, which you can make ahead for more than one meal and assemble in different ways later (tomato toor dal another day, spinach dal the meal after?)
I came across Nigella’s recipe for Lentil Tamarind and Date Dhansak last week, which prompted an internal conversation with the self.
Dal without salt? Did the ingredient list miss that by accident or is this dish really meant to have no salt?
Well, moong dal halwa is dal without salt, and that’s the finest dessert ever.
But there’s garlic-infused oil and tamarind in this recipe – no dessert worth its er…salt…has garlic.
Who said this is a dessert?
Guesswork much? Just follow the recipe and find out for sure.
So I did follow the recipe, with a couple of tiny adaptations. I ended up with an unusual, rich and tangy dal, the taste of which grew on me with each spoonful.
Weekdays are busy times for many of us who come back from work late evening and then fix a meal. We want weeknight dinners to be easy to put together, taking little time to move from kitchen to plate. [Not counting the blessed few like Rohit’s boss with the gusto to whip up a fancy meal at that hour]
One could cook loads on Sunday and freeze for the week. But that’s not so exciting, is it? So how does one reach that elusive balance between easy+quick (pre-cooked) and tasty+interesting (freshly cooked)?
Here’s a middle ground.
Make-ahead food parts. Mix and match. Embellish.
Use the Pareto Principle to your advantage: identify the steps in cooking that consume a majority time and labor, and do them beforehand. The chopping of greens. The slow-frying of spices. The boiling of dal. When the time comes to make your weeknight dinner, all that remains to be done is the remaining 20% of cooking that produces 80% of the result.