Hum dum dum ditty dum
Hum dum dum
Oh the wind is lashing lustily
And the trees are thrashing thrustily
And the leaves are rustling gustily
So it’s rather safe to say
That it seems that it may turn out to be
It feels that it will undoubtedly
It looks like a rather blustery day, today
It sounds that it may turn out to be
Feels that it will undoubtedly
Looks like a rather blustery day today
- – Winnie The Pooh and the Blustery Day
Song by: Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman
Yes it was that kind of “blustery day”; the kind when Piglet was lifted into the air by the gust of wind and blown away while Pooh tried to hold him on with the scarf. The wind whistled and echoed and the girls huddled close to us. Weren’t we glad we did not live in the Hundred Acre Woods?? Unlike Winnie the Pooh we did not take a “stroll”, but stayed inside, warm and cozy while our inner selves demanded some warm comfort food to cozy us up.
If you are wondering why I am talking about Winnie the Pooh… well I do not think I will ever fall out of love with this adorable bear and his friends. In our pajamas and warm cozy socks, it always brings us smiles to see and read about this silly old bear.
For most of us Indians, Dal happens to be comfort food. The lentils are so easily available in so many varieties, and they come with endless possibilities of cooking them.
A little change in the seasonings and spices will allow you to create a completely new dish with new flavors.
Back to the blustery night now. When the girls would not leave my side, and they ran with their eyes wide with apprehension with each howl they heard, I did not have much time in the kitchen. Quick and easy it had to be and something comforting which we would all eat.
A pressure cooker saves the life. I still do not understand why someone would not use a pressure cooker, for I know quite a few who would not and still complain that they do not like cooking lentils as they take too long to cook. It takes less than 15 minutes, (and that is after stretching it a bit too far) to cook up the lentils, and one does not even have to soak the lentils for hours. Anyway…this happens to be one of those recipes which is cooked without any onion, garlic or ginger. The dominant flavors are the hing/asafoetida, the smoky cumin cooked in ghee and the fresh chili peppers.
So we ended up with a bowlful of dal for each of us, loaded with tomatoes, a good drizzle of ghee, fresh cilantro and some lime juice; some just made rotis with a smear of ghee and a side salad of tomatoes and cucumber.The ultimate comfort food for a very “blustery” night.
Tomato Dal – Seasoned Lentils with Tomatoes
Ingredients: (serves 3-4 as a side)
- 1 cup Toor/Arhar Dal/split skinned pigeon peas *
- salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- red chili flakes (of dry chili pepper)
- a generous pinch of hing/asafoetida
- 1.5 tablespoon ghee/butter/oil + more ghee or melted butter to drizzle on hot dal if you want
- 2-4 hot green chili pepper (or more if you want)
- 2 medium sized tomatoes, about 1.5 cups chopped
- fresh cilantro/green coriander for garnish
- fresh lime or lemon juice to finish off
*Note: Feel free to use any kind of lentils. The taste will differ with every different lentil and it is good way to change a recipe while keep the rest of the ingredients exactly the same.
Wash lentils till water runs clear. Add a cup of hot water and soak the lentils for about 30 minutes. It is okay if you do not soak, but the cooking gets faster if you do.
Slice the green chili peppers. If you cannot tolerate the heat, remove seeds and membranes.
Heat ghee in a deep thick bottomed pan or a pressure cooker. Add the cumin and then the hing/asafoetida. When the cumin sizzles and the hing is fragrant, add the green chili peppers, tomatoes, salt and turmeric. Toss them around, lower the heat and cover and cook until the tomatoes are softened and completely mushed up.
Drain the lentils and add it to the pan/pressure cooker. Stir the lentils in with the mushed tomatoes; cook and toss them for about 3 minutes until the tomatoes coat the lentils well. Add about 3-4 cups of water, cover and cook or cook in the pressure cooker, which will take only a few minutes. If you are not using a pressure cooker, it will take anywhere from 1 hour to 1 hour 30 minutes for the lentils to soften ( the cooking time of the lentil will differ with the kind of lentil you are using). When done the lentils should be soft yet most of them should hold their shapes. If the dal is overcooked, it will clump up. So watch it when you cook.
When ready to serve, drizzle some more ghee, add the chili flakes and lots of fresh cilantro and a nice squirt of lime/lemon juice.
Serve with rice, roti or crusty bread.
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Cooking Time: About 1 hr 30 min. without pressure cooker & 20 minutes when cooked in a pressure cooker
Serving suggestion: Serve as a side, or as soup