Of all the infinite ways that Dal is cooked in India, this happens to be just another one; hearty and laden with the warm, distinct aroma of garlic. Quite popular, mostly in the northern regions of India, the flavors here are deep and rich.
Lehsuni means flavored with garlic and this can be done with any kind or combination of lentils. The popular ones that are used for this dish are masoor (red lentils), and also sometimes yellow mung/moong/de-husked yellow lentils, toor/tuvar/arhar/split pigeon peas and in combination with chana dal/or the split Bengal grams. With each kind of lentils the flavors will change a tiny bit, but the strongest aroma as you might have guessed is of garlic here.
The Lehsuni Dal is perfect when there is a little bit of chill outside, just like it is now. It is cooked as one would cook meat, slowly braising the lentils with the spice mix and the garlic paste. The spices and the flavors of garlic make a simple meal unforgettable. The dal is best relished with flatbread/or any rustic bread or served over hot rice.
A and me moved to this country just as we had stepped in our twenties, with only two small suitcases filled with few clothes, two binders containing the college certificates and our dreams. What we had not got with us was a pressure cooker. We had packed one, but due to some change of plans during the last hours of our departure from home, we had to leave behind more than half of our baggage. We made our journey to begin a new life with only as much as one would need to camp for a few weeks. After a few days in our new kitchen, I knew we could not go very far without a pressure cooker. I was a novice cook. I was used to the pressure cooker and I did not have one. Far away from home, we wanted to get closer to home-cooked meals.
Fortunately a couple of months later, I met another girl, who just like us had just moved and also got her pressure cooker. And she happened to live just few doors beyond ours. I borrowed hers whenever I needed one, until I had one of my own. Eighteen years back, and I can still see ourselves running back and forth with food and the cooker. The acquaintance blossomed to a strong, powerful friendship to last for a lifetime.
Monica, thank you; not just for the pressure cooker, but for your friendship, and for all those days we spent together. Love you always!
Pressure Cooker is one thing that every single home in India has in common. Food, clothes, language, customs and traditions are all diverse. Even the spice box will be adorned with a variety of spices in separate corners of India. But pressure cooker is one gadget that every single home will have. Not just one, but different kinds in different sizes. They form the center piece of the kitchen and speak the language that binds all kitchens in India in a symphony.
Dal, the ubiquitous food of India, is almost always cooked in a pressure cooker. Eggs and vegetables are boiled and steamed in a cooker too. So is rice, meat, curries and a lot of time many desserts. Many decades back, my maa would bake cakes in the pressure cooker. Besides cooking faster than the “simmering in the pot” way, the pressure cooking also seals in the flavors quite well.
In India, a child is used to going to sleep while the pressure cooker hisses. They know by instinct that this is a part of home. (that does not mean we do not sing lullabies to our children). What I am trying to say is that no Indian, not even a kid will jump in shock and surprise when that whistle of the cooker goes off emitting the delicious aroma of whatever is cooking inside it. We only pay attention to the aroma that hangs around the air while the pressure cooker hisses or whistles.
Pressure cookers, like jewelry, porcelain, furniture and recipe are handed down from one generation to another. I have a thirty year old cooker which gave up its life last week. They are not really handed down like treasures; more like a basic tool to start a home, or assist with a move. Or simply because, “…here you go, this one works well, you can take it…” kind of way.
So when last week the last of my cooker died on me, I was frantic. I got edgy, peeking inside of the pot of black eyed pea the one hundredth time, waiting for it to be done. It seemed like it took for ever. I waited impatiently and then I picked up the potato masher and started mashing up the beans wanting them to cook faster. I do not remember spending more than two days without a pressure cooker (except for the first couple of months I mentioned above). A week was a very long time. The feeling of helplessness is quite hard to explain to those who have not used one in the kitchen. It is like being in the kitchen without a knife.
I tracked my order in Amazon every hour. I had gone over a few websites and reviews and opinions from friends and decided on the newer version of the Indian Pressure Cookers. I grew up with Hawkins and Prestige. Futura is a newer model of the Hawkins.
Well there are many misconceptions about pressure cookers not being safe. But they only as dangerous as any other tool in the kitchen. If they are handled as they should be, and maintained well, they go a long way, and will be a trusted and faithful friend for many years to come. They are unsafe if they are misused and not cared for. (read Jaya’s Post about Indian Pressure Cookers).
Lehsuni Moong Dal: Garlic Flavored Yellow Moong
Ingredients: (serves 4-6)
- 3/4 cup yellow moong
- 1 tablespoon ghee (or 1 tablespoon oil )
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 cloves
- a generous pinch of hing/asafoetida
- 1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper or 2 dry red chilli pepper (adjust amount to taste)
- 2 tablespoon chili garlic paste (adjust the chili powder to taste when you make the paste)
- 1/4 cup chopped onion
- 1/2 – 3/4 cup grated fresh tomatoes (slice the tomato in half and use a box grater to grate the tomatoes)*
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1.5 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced or julienned
- salt to taste
- 3.5 – 4 cups of warm water (or adjust amount to as needed)
- fresh coriander/cilantro for garnish
- fresh lemon juice – to drizzle
For tempering/seasoning before serving
- 1.5 tablespoon ghee or melted butter
- 1/2 teaspoon red kashmiri chili powder/cayenne/or smoked paprika
- 2 cloves of garlic, sliced (optional)
* Note: I like using fresh tomatoes here and grating it as opposed to canned puree. The texture of grated tomato is close to puree but a bit more coarse and it adds a beautiful texture to any recipe. Use a box grater on a plate, grate the tomatoes as close to the skin as you can. Pour out the tomatoes when you are ready to use them in the pan, including the leftover skin. Of you may discard skin/peel if you do not want to use them.
(There are two ways to make the dal. The traditional way would be to first cook the dal with salt and turmeric and then simmer the cooked dal/lentils with the spice mix, onions and tomatoes and the rest of it. I make it at one go; braise the uncooked lentils with the spice mix and then cook everything together. It saves me time and the flavors of the spices and the garlic infuses better. If you are making it, do it the way you are comfortable with).
Wash lentils/dal in few changes of water until the water runs clear. Keep the lentils soaked in clean water until you are ready to use.
Combine grated tomatoes, chili garlic paste, salt and turmeric in non reactive bowl.
Heat ghee/oil in the pressure cooker (or a heavy bottomed pot if not using the pressure cooker). When the oil shimmers, add the red dry chili pepper or the crushed pepper, cloves, cumin seeds and hing.
When the cumin starts to sizzle, add the coarsely ground black pepper and the onions.
Cook at medium heat until the onions soften and start to brown at the edges. Now strain out the water and add the lentils to the onions.
Add the mix of the grated tomatoes and garlic. Cook at medium to low heat, stirring frequently, until the tomatoes and the spice mix coat the lentils and the ghee/oil starts separating and leaving the sides of the cooker or the pot, about 10-12 minutes.
Now add the ginger, give it a stir and add the warm water. Stir everything together and close the cooker; cook until done (follow instructions). It will take about 12-15 minutes in the pressure cooker (time will vary with each cooker). If you are not using a pressure cooker, cover the pot and cook until the lentils are tender.
If you want the dal less soupy, simmer for a little bit longer until you have the desired consistency. We have it soupy if we are having with rice and a thick enough to coat a spoon, if we are having with bread/flatbread.
To make the final tempering/seasoning:
Sprinkle some chili powder on the dal. Heat ghee in a small pan and when the ghee is really hot pour the ghee on the dal. If you are using the sliced garlic, brown the garlic in the ghee and then pour the garlic and ghee on the dal. Gently stir and garnish with fresh coriander leaves and drizzle of lemon.
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25-30 minutes total if cooked in pressure cooker. Will take one hour or more without pressure cooker
Difficulty Level: Easy
Well I did cook the Lehsuni Dal in the Indian pressure cooker and it did not blow up in my face!
Related Posts: (more Dal/Lentil Recipes)
- Dal Chenchki: Red Lentils with Pearl Onion
- Dal Makhani/Lentils Simmered in Creamy Tomato Sauce
- Dal Palak/Lentils with Spinach
- Masala Chana Dal – Spiced Split Grams
- Masala Mung Wadi- Lentil Drops in Garlic Tomato Sauce
- Methi Dal (Lentil Soup with Fenugreek)
- Red Lentils with Cumin and Fried Onions
- Simply Seasoned Red Lentils – A Taste of Home
- Sukhi Dal/Warm Lentil Spread
- Bhaja Muger Dal/Roasted Mung Soup
- Red Lentil & Vegetable Soup
- Simply Seasoned Red Lentils – A Taste of Home
- Turkish Red Lentil Soup with Sumac