At its simplest, it's lentils, water, ginger, turmeric and mustard seeds. After that point, one can add anything to suit taste or what's available: play around with using a combination of lentils, different seeds, like cumin or nigella, different sour notes like tamarind, lemon/lime, kokum, tomatoes, tomatillos... Different vegetables, depending on how hearty one would like it. Make it a one pot meal with quinoa so that all the nutrients are right there. The possibilities are endless.
My mom always adds extra tomatoes for me because she knows I love its sour and sweet notes in the daal. My grandmother used to make '3 daal' which is a combination of three different lentils and it was just beautiful and loving in every way.
My dad travels often and whenever he gets home, the only thing he wants to have is daal. It's just so reliable and comforting, especially for him since he has been eating it all his life. I started the tradition as well -- I will be having daal after my flight on Monday and hopefully made by my dad.
I'm obsessed with sourness, so I use kokum in this daal. It's a fruit from India that is dried and used like tamarind to add a musky sour note to curries and daals. One can use tamarind in its place, or leave it out completely, and squeeze some lemon juice when it's off the stove.
On days that I'm making dinner just for myself, I make this simple daal because it's delicious, nutritious, extremely low in fat, and so quick and easy to prepare. In a pressure cooker, daal takes a total of 20 minutes. On the stove, a little longer. If using the stove method, it helps immensely if the daals have been soaking for 4 - 6 hours so that they cook faster.
50g (1/2 dl / 1/4 cup) mong daal
50g (1/2 dl / 1/4 cup) toor daal (red lentils, or chana daal or any other lentil, or the same mong daal!)
50g quinoa, rinsed (optional)
450g (7 dl / 3 1/2 cups) water
1 tbs fresh ginger, chopped
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tbs canola oil
1/2 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
A pinch hing or asafetida (optional)
1 green chili, chopped finely
15g (1/2 dl / 1/4 cup) kokum (optional)
A tomato, chopped (optional)
A half onion, chopped
A half onion, chopped
Lime or lemon as a garnish
Fresh chopped cilantro as a garnish
1. In a bowl, combine the daals and rinse as many times as needed until the water is clear.
2. Add the daal, water, ginger, turmeric, and quinoa (if using) to a pressure cooker or a sauce pan with a lid.
If using a pressure cooker: Once all the ingredients come to a boil, cover and turn the heat to its lowest. After one whistle, turn off heat and allow to rest until the lid is ready to be unlocked.
If using a regular sauce pan: Bring to a boil, cover and cook on medium heat until the lentils are extremely tender and disintegrating. You may need to add additional water.
3. If using kokum, soak in water while the lentils are cooking.
4. After the lentils are cooked, begin with the tarka: In a separate sauce pan, heat oil on medium low heat, and once hot, add the mustard seeds and turn the heat to low. Be careful as the hot mustard seeds can splatter. Once the seeds start to pop, add the cumin seeds and hing and allow to sizzle until aromatic but not burnt. Take off the heat.
5. Add the tarka to the daal, along with salt, kokum (if using), tomatoes, onion, chilies and any other vegetables. Add additional water for a soupier consistency. Bring to a boil on medium heat. Turn off the heat after the vegetables are cooked.
6. When serving the daal, add fresh cilantro and a squeeze of lime or lemon.