We went for three weeks to New Delhi, India. They felt like three days. The reason for my trip was not a happy one. I went to be with my mother, who is sick. As difficult as my visit was and as emotional as it continues to be, I want to talk about the positive things in life. I want to talk about life. And about the happy times with mom.
But first India. Charlize was going back after three years and it was all she had imagined it to be. The land of crazy contrasts. Of fragrances, of color and the chaos of everything. She got to do her henna and buy her many bangles. We visited the mighty Mughal castles and forts. And drove through the Indian Senate. Got crushed in the Delhi metro and danced with glory to Bollywood songs! We got pampered and waited on hand and foot. We loved every minute of it!
This dal too celebrates moments of joy in the past. It immediately takes me back decades to those moments when I would get back home from school, ravenous with hunger. I would not even need enter the house to know what was cooking most days. I particularly remember the days in monsoon when Rachna (my sister) and I would trudge back home in the rain, arriving wet, tired and grumpy. Those days when the delicious fragrance of my favorite dal arhar (also called pigeon pea or yellow split beans) and bhindi (okra) would waft enticingly to my nose. I would be the first to be at the table, wet clothes and fatigue forgotten, waiting to be served by my mom who moved with such lazy languor across the room in her beautiful kaftan. She is the most effortless cook I know. And the most modest. She could just whip up the food in no time, just walking around doing her other tasks around the house. And her dals are the best I have ever tasted. Maybe its this reason I have never really tried to make dals. I just don’t think any effort of mine can match hers.
As she struggles with her sickness, a wonderful suggestion from my dearest friend made me sit down with her to reveal to me all she knew about dals. They are so simple, she said with a sparkle in her eye, it all depends on the hand that makes it.
So I come back to Holland with her simple recipe. And it came out good. You know what mom says is so right. Every dal that I have tasted has always tasted different when cooked by someone different.
You will always find dal at every meal in India because they are so nutritious. It is often referred to as the poor mans meal too in India because of how cheap it is. Serve it with some rice and boom you don’t need anything else. This dal is wonderful to eat just as soup or served with rice and like here with my favorite okra too. Comfort food at its best.
What a crazy assortment of veggies right?!
for the lentil
1 1/2 cup water
1 tsp salt
for the tempering
1 onion, sliced fine
5 – 6 cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp tumeric powder
1 tsp red chili powder
1 clove garlic, sliced fine
Wash the lentils thoroughly till the water is clear in your pressure cooker. Add salt and water and place it on burner on high. Let the whistle go 2-3 times. Lower the heat to low and let cook for 6 minutes. Let the air out and open the lid and let your lentil simmer quietly on the lowest flame while you prepare the tempering.
In a small frying pan add oil. Next add mustard and cumin seeds. As they start popping add onions and garlic. Let brown ever so slightly. Add the tomatoes. Cook for about 5-10 minutes as you see the tomatoes melt some in the oil. Finally add all the spices and cook for another 5 minutes.
Turn off heat and add the tempering to the hot lentils. Mix well.
for the okra
500 grams okra, sliced lengthways
2 tbsps vinegar
2 tbsps olive oil
1 lime juice
1 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp roasted cumin powder
1/2 tsp spicy paprika powder
salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 260°C/500°F. Place sliced okra in a bowl and fill with water till covered. Add the vinegar and mix well. Let sit for 15 minutes, mixing and agitating every 5 minutes. Drain and rinse in colander and pat dry with paper towels.
In a small bowl, salt, chili powder, cumin, paprika and pepper.
Place the okra on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Sprinkle the spices on the okra and toss to cover fully. Bake for 20 minutes, turning with a spatula after 10 minutes. Add a dash of lime juice after done.
Serve the lentil soup by itself or with some basmati rice and the okra on the side.