My journey in the culinary world started with Baking. Yes, BAKING! Neither chopping vegetables, nor with a simple salads. Nope, I did not help in cooking. I dived straight into baking, head first. And I loved every bit of it.
I was young, naive and also not the one responsible for preparing our daily meals. Our meals did not involve baking. It was mostly rice, curry, vegetables and something fried on the side, like fish. It was simple and nourishing. I couldn’t be intrigued, it was the food I grew up eating. I honestly didn’t find it interesting to even attempt to understand it better. I said I was young and naive, so just stay with me here and don’t roll your eyes.
At that time, I was still studying and Baking was my ‘extra curricular activity’. A hobby that I engaged in to keep occupied in my spare time. Although a hobby, it meant a lot to me, A LOT! and still does.
As I continued this journey, I discovered the world of blogging. I connected with bloggers. I also met people who blogged about regular/ daily home cooking. Simple soul-food, comforting and nourishing. Back then I wouldn’t have used these words to describe it. But anyways, I wondered why would someone blog about Indian home cooking, don’t we all know it already. Truth is, I didn’t. And what I didn’t know is that years later I would be the one struggling, frantically making calls back home and jotting down recipes and going back and forth these blogs to prepare a meal. Blogs, which feature regional Indian curry, rice and vegetables, turned out to be my lifesaving grace.
Initially, it was just to put some food on the table and later to beat the monotony, that I started trying out different recipes. Who knew there would be a thousand different ways to make daal? Ok, that’s exaggerating, but you get the drift. Indian food, as complex as it may seem in terms of flavours, is equally challenging in terms of techniques. How thin in consistency should the neer dosa batter be ? or how long should you leave the idli batter to ferment? These are somethings you learn only by doing. It all takes time and practice to get it right.
So while I have started stalking family members in the kitchen each time I visit my country, I am also going to share with you some of these recipes here. These are mostly my family heirloom recipes, recipes that they adopted from other sources, some traditional manglorean recipes, recipes that are successful attempts of my experiments, recipes that might help someone somewhere stuck in a dilemma regarding what to cook for the next meal. I will document these recipes under the ‘Indian Meals’ tab.
Since you have been so patiently reading, I will leave here the first recipe. It’s something my grand mother used to prepare often and one of my favourites.
Green Masala Masoor Daal
Step 1: Cook the Daal
Whole masoor daal (Whole red lentils) 1/2 cup
Onion 1 medium, chopped
Tomato 1 medium, chopped
Oil 1 1/2-2 tbsp
Salt to taste
In a heated pressure cooker, add oil and saute the onions till translucent. Next, add the tomato, salt.Add the daal and sufficient water (almost 2 inches above the daal). Cover the lid, top it with the whistle and pressure cook it for 4 whistles. Once done, allow the cooker to cool for 15 mins before you remove the whistle and open the lid. Once done, add the green masala paste.
Step 2: Prepare the Green masala paste
(This paste can be prepared in advance and stored in the freezer for upto a week. Just thaw it to room temperature before use. Do not confuse this with Green Chutney, it’s different)
Coriander leaves with stalk 1 bunch ( 3/4 cup when chopped)
Ginger 1 inch
Green chillies 2 (spicy ones)
Cumin seeds (Jeera) 1/2 tsp
Turmeric 1/2 tsp
Bafat masala 1/2 tsp (optional)
Salt to taste
Roughly chop the coriander and ginger. In a mixer, grind all the above ingredients to a paste. Avoid water, if required add very little water only to aid the grinding process. Add the green masala paste to the daal and simmer on low-medium heat for roughly around 7-8 mins. The raw dark green colour of the masala should change to a bit brownish olive green or mehendi green. Once done, take it off the heat and temper it (add the tadka).
Step 3: Tempering/ Tadka
Oil 1 tbsp (sunflower oil)
Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida (Hing) a pinch
Curry leaves 5-6
Garlic cloves 3-4 (crushed)
Dried red chillies ( small, round ones) 2
Heat oil in a tadka pan. Add mustard seeds. When the seeds start to splutter, add the asafoetida, curry leaves, garlic and dried red chilles. Allow it all to sizzle for a minute and quickly transfer it to the daal and masala mixture and cover for a minute or two. Serve hot.
Tastes best when consumed with steamed rice, vegetable and something crispy on the side like papad or along with steamed rice and a fried fish.