Category Archives: Daals

Turkish Gram Stew

I am going to call this dish by that exotic name just for fun, though what it is, really, is  my friend Srividya’s spin on the usal curry that forms part of the street food called misal-pav that is so popular in Maharashtra.

It is also lighter and less oily than many an usal curry I’ve had before, so I am really glad that my instinct (Vidya will surely have a good recipe for this, I thought to myself, as I stared at lentils, one Saturday morning a few weeks ago, that I had sprouted over a couple of days but suddenly wasn’t quite sure what to do with) led me to call my young ex-colleague and friend – who is a very accomplished cook-  to ask her for her version of an usal recipe.

What sealed it for me was that for the first time, Indira and Noor actually liked a preparation with this particular type of lentils and I saw that Shri enjoyed the dish too. So, a win-win-win ! Thank you much, Vidya!


Turkish Gram stew aka Matki Usal Curry

Sprouted moth/matki/Turkish gram- 1.5 cups
2 finely chopped medium-sized onions
2 finely chopped medium-sized  tomatoes
1 and 1/2 tsp of ginger and garlic paste
1/2 tsp each of turmeric powder, red chilli powder, coriander powder
3/4 tsp of pav bhaji masala
paste made of (with very little water)-2 to 3 tbsp of grated coconut, 1 tbsp of poppy seeds, 4-5 cashewnuts and 1 green chilli
salt to taste


In a pressure cooker, warm two tbsp of oil and fry the onions till they start to brown, then add the tomatoes and fry till they are quite soft and the water has dried up. Add the ginger-garlic paste now and fry for a minute. Add the dry spices next, fry for a few seconds, then add the paste and fry everything together till the oil starts to appear on the sides. Add the matki, about two and a half cups of water and salt, and pressure cook till 3 or 4 whistles. Let the pressure cooker cool completely, then take off the lid and stir the curry well and let it simmer for a few minutes if it is too thin.

Just before eating, add a little chopped green coriander and serve with hot rice or phulkas or pav.

This dish is delicious with any of those options but if accompanied by pav, serve some farsan on the side and slices of lime for a finger-lickin’-good bowl 🙂


Chickpea Lentils with Coconut

This daal, which belongs to Bengali cuisine, is one I know well from the awesome “Oh Calcutta” restaurant in Mumbai that B and Boudi have taken us to often. It has a distinctive, pleasing and warm taste that comes from the cinnamon in it, and of course it has those thin slices of coconut that are so yummy to bite in to!

So when I wanted the cook to make a “different” daal a while ago, and it was a day when the veg for dinner was going to have an onion-and-tomatoes masala as the base, I found myself remembering this version of chickpea lentils – a daal that a good Punjabi like me usually cannot imagine cooking without a tadka of onions and tomatoes.

But I find that as I get older, I like my lentils as plain as possible since eaten this way there’s something soupy, wholesome, and soothing about them. And a simpler daal provides a nice balance and an interesting contrast too, when there are other things on the menu such as a salad and a veg with spices, ginger, etc.

So I tweaked the recipe I found in a little book called “Bengali Kitchen” (published by Roli Books) which I’ve had in my cookbook collection for years, and the results were much appreciated by all. The girls, who usually only favor varan, among the different kinds of daals that are a part of our everyday meals, liked this one a lot, they said – and this despite the kick it gets from a whole red chilli !

Here’s what you need to do for a lentil curry that is really soothing, yet so full of flavors and taste.


Narkel Cholar Daal (Chickpea Lentils with Coconut)

1 cup of chana/Bengal gram daal (chickpea lentils)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
salt to taste
2 tablespoons of sunflower oil (or 1 of ghee and 1 of oil)
1/2 teaspoon of saunf (fennel) seeds
1″ long thin sticks of cinnamon – 2-3 pieces
3-4 teaspoons of very thinly sliced coconut pieces (each about 1 cm wide and about an inch -or a little more – long)
I large dried red chilli, broken in to 3 or 4 parts (optional, the end-result is as delicious without)
2 teaspoons of sugar

Wash the lentils thoroughly, then soak them in enough water so that the grains remain covered by water even after 2-3 hours, by which time they will have swelled up quite a bit. After this much time has elapsed, pressure-cook the lentils in about 2-3 cups of water, till you hear 3 to 4 whistles.

Once the steam is all released from the cooker, open the lid, and stir in the turmeric powder (I prefer to add the turmeric after the daal is cooked as I’ve found that this makes for a prettier, lighter yellow color), the salt and the sugar. Stir the daal a little vigorously with a whisk or a churner, so that the grains break up somewhat but without turning them all mushy.

In a small frying pan, heat the oil (with most daals, go for a ghee+oil combo, for a je ne sais quoi taste), then add the cinnamon sticks and let them fry till their aroma begins to be released. Add the fennel seeds next, and after just a couple of seconds – so that the seeds don’t burn,which spoils their flavor IMO – add the coconut pieces and the red chilli. Fry  till the coconut pieces start to lose their pure white color. Add this tempering now to the daal, add some hot,boiled water (as much as you like, depending on how thick or thin you like your daal) and boil the whole mixture for about 5-10 minutes so that all the flavors mingle well.

Eat this with phulka, or with hot rice with a touch of ghee in it, or just straight out of a bowl, like soup. Any which way, it’s GOOD !!

For Indira – Daal Maharani

When I made this dish – also known as Daal Makhni – for dinner when we had friends over a couple of weeks ago, I was pleasantly surprised to find that not only did Indira remember the taste  from the last time I made it (at least several months ago), she even seemed to be very fond of it. In fact, with the nose she’s inherited from her father, she knew right off when she came in to the kitchen and saw it being made just what it was.  So she was delighted that there was enough left over that we had some for dinner the next day too.

That girl really does have a very Punjabi soul 🙂

So here’s the recipe – adapted from the one in Rocky Mohan’s “The Art of Indian Cuisine” – just for her.

Daal Maharani/Daal Makhni

If you happen to have ginger and garlic pastes handy in the refrigerator, then this dish certainly qualifies to be, as it is here, in a list of easy, one-pot recipes since it requires little other preparation and cooks in the background, which allows other chores to go on at the same time.

Tadke vali Masoor ki Daal

The very first time I cam back home for a holiday from boarding school, this daal was one of the things that Ma made for my first meal at home the day I arrived, along with bhindi ki subzi, boondi ka raita and plain white rice, because that combination had always been my favorite meal since I was very small.

I guess Ma saw from my reaction just how much I missed these things in the school mess, so every visit after that first one, for the next six years, till I started working and set up a kitchen of my own, she continued to make these dishes for my first meal each time. She still does, in fact, sometimes when I go back to see her in Jamshedpur with the girls.

So when I made this daal for the boulanger’s customers this Tuesday, I did so with a certain feeling of nostalgia.

It was then all the more wonderful to find out later that day that it got a response the boulanger called “tres bonne” (which means very good, or excellent as when it is said with the appreciation that the boulanger‘s voice showed) and so he wants to include it among the things that I will cook for next Tuesday.

This is one of those recipes of Ma that I follow quite faithfully.

1 cup of dhuli masoor (red lentils)

1 onion, peeled and chopped fine

1 tomato, chopped fine

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric powder

1/2 or 1 tablespoon of chopped green coriander

1/4 teaspoon each of the five spices that make up paanchphoron

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil

1 tablespoon of ghee (or a second one of oil)

Wash the daal thoroughly and soak in water for an hour or two (the daal can be cooked without soaking it beforehand and in this case it will usually need a little longer to cook).

Pressure cook the daal with salt till the grains are quite soft and well-blended. Add half a teaspoon of turmeric powder and mix it in well.

In the meanwhile, heat the oil plus the ghee in a frying pan. Add the paanchphoron as described here and when the seeds begin to crackle, add the onions and fry till they begin to turn a dark-ish brown. Add the tomatoes next, and cook till they are quite soft; by this time the oil will begin to appear a little on the sides of the mixture. Mix in the green coriander now, fry everything together for 1/2 a minute, then add this mixture to the daal and simmer it for 5-6 minutes.

The daal can of course be tempered with only cumin seeds, or with cumin seeds and mustard seeds, instead of with paanchphoran and the green coriander is an extra too. But the latter two ingredients together spell magic here 🙂

Sabut Moong ki Daal

This is a delicious daal, made with whole green mung beans. I don’t make it too often, but one that I’d want should stay in the girls’ memories as they grow up, go away and set up kitchens of their own, since it is so nutritious.

So as I made it for dinner tonight, I thought I must include the recipe here.

Like chana daal, this is especially nice with a touch of lime juice.

A Very Simple Masoor Daal

Like varan, this is such a convenient and quick way to cook daal.

I had always made red lentils with onions and tomatoes fried in a tadka of either cumin seeds or paanchphoran.  But ever since I watched Radhesh make this daal a few months ago, when she tempered it very simply with only cumin seeds, curry leaves and whole red chilli, I have made it like that more than once. Cooked this way, it has a simple, delicious and wholesome flavor.

Masoor Daal

1 cup of masoor daal (red lentils), washed and soaked for an hour or two

1 and a1/2 teaspoons of salt

1/2 a teaspoon of turmeric

7-8 curry leaves

1 teaspoon of cumin seeds

1 (or half of one) whole, dried red chilli broken in two

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil or ghee

Pressure cook the daal in 3 cups of water, with the salt added in, till it is quite soft.

When the cooker can be opened, add the turmeric and blend the grains well with a hand-churner.

Heat the oil in a small pan, then add the cumin seeds and the red chilli. When the cumin seeds start to crackle, add the curry leaves. After a few seconds, add this tempering to the daal, mix in some boiled water if the daal seems too thick and simmer everything together for 5-6 minutes.

Again, like varan, this is just wonderful to eat on a cold winter evening like tonight.

My Favorite Daal – Chana Daal with Lauki(Bottle Gourd) or Courgette

I tend to eat this daal (yellow split peas) from a bowl like one would eat soup, with a touch of  lime juice though it very nice with phulkas or paranthas too. It has a really  hearty taste and is quite filling.  My Ma usually tempers it with paanchphoran, which somehow suits this daal, IMO.

She often cooks it with bottle gourd (lauki) added to it, which I substitute with courgette since that Indian vegetable is not easy to find here.

And though I made it yesterday with the skin of the courgette peeled off, since the girls eat it more easily that way, it is probably better to retain the skin since that likely has a lot of nutrients.

I also usually make more of this daal than we need for one meal because the leftover portion, mixed with whole wheat flour, makes the dough for really soft and full-of-taste phulkas/paranthas the next day.

Chana Daal with Lauki or Courgette

1 cup of chana daal (yellow split pea lentils)

1 large or two small onions, chopped fine

1 medium sized or two small tomatoes, chopped fine

1/2  a teaspoon of grated ginger or ginger paste

1/2 a teaspoon (and perhaps a pinch more) of turmeric powder

1 courgette (300-400 grams), washed, peeled or preferably with the skin and diced in to chunks (neither too large nor too small)

salt (2 teaspoons or to taste)

2-3 tablespoons of sunflower oil

Also, ideally, 1 tablespoon of finely chopped coriander leaves

Soak the lentils for a couple of hours, then drain the water in which they were soaked and pressure cook with another three cups of water and salt till quite soft. This will probably need 6 to 8 whistles (if the pressure cooker is the Indian variety).

Remove the cooker off the hob and when all the steam has been released from the cooker, open the lid, stir the daal with a large spoon or ladle to break up the grains, then add the courgette and cook the mixture again -another couple of whistles should do it.

When the cooker is ready to be opened again add the turmeric and stir everything together gently so as not to smash the courgette pieces.

In the meanwhile, in a smaller frying pan, prepare the tadka. Heat the oil, then add paanchphoron.

As all the five spices of  paanchphoron begin to crackle, add the onions and fry till they are golden brown. Add the ginger paste/grated ginger next and fry for another 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes and fry till the oil starts to appear on the sides. Now add the chopped coriander and mix everything well before adding this tadka to the daal in the cooker.

If the daal seems too thick then add a little boiled water (and salt, if needed). To finish, simmer the daal for a few minutes so that the tadka blends in well.