Haryana Dal Maharani – India through dal

Last year, I splurged on a new genre of books – books on food! Not just the ones that share a recipe but rather food memoirs. I absolutely adore stories of childhood that takes the reader through the food and memories around them, of mango trees climbed, that secret recipe for that kheer, that festive meal with loved ones, of favourites dishes at cousin’s place and bottled pickles that you hoarded back from a visit to grandma. I could go on. A dish means more when I know a story behind it, the person who made it or some memory associated with it. While food stories and food history has always been fascinating, I am now in a phase where I am really enjoying cooking and learning little tips and tricks from different people and creating my own memories and evoking a bit of my own childhood. This also helps me appreciate food outside and I feel inspired to come back and try to recreate a dish or add my own twist to it. And trust me, this is not who I was a few years ago. And I am loving this side to myself where I cook to evoke memories and to create some.

And that is why, I think it is time, time to start the dal series. I have been sharing a couple on my instagram already but I do want to document them here, ofcourse.  First on the list is this adaptation of Haryana Dal Maharani by Krishna Dutta. This is one of the books from my stash which is not really a food memoir but an account where the author talks of dal from different parts of India. This book has also been a big inspiration behind my series. There are definitely some overlaps between the regions but it is super interesting to see how dal as a dish has undergone so much influence and personalisation over the years and across India so much that, we are unaware of how many varieties of the humble toor or masoor dal are made everyday. This book may have just scratched the surface and I do plan to write about it in detail once I have tried a fair share of recipes so I will keep this short for now.

When I came across this recipe, I was quite tickled because I have not found any recipe on the internet that shares a recipe similar to this as a Haryanvi recipe. I decided to give it a go on one of the weekends. I did make a make a couple of minor twists to the original recipe. Even though the recipe uses exact proportions, I’d like to believe that cooking is  intuitive and one that really reflects what the cook fancies in that instant so I will keep the ingredient portions pretty open but rather just share the technique/ procedure.Feel free to tweak and play with it as your heart desires. After all, what is cooking if not impulsive?

Dal/ lentil type:  Toor dal, masoor dal (whole).

I used:

Toor dal + masoor dal (about 2 cups); ginger and garlic finely minced or pound (you can use a paste), tomatoes, onions, asafoetida/hing, chilli powder, turmeric powder, about 2 tbsp yoghurt mixed with a pinch of brown sugar/ jaggery (you can skip it if sweetness isn’t your thing), slit green and/or whole dried red chillies, cumin, butter/ghee and salt to taste.

I did:

  • Cooked the dal in a deep saucepan, removed the froth/ scum that rose to the surface.
  • Reduced the heat, covered and simmered until it cooked.
  • Meanwhile I melted some butter/ghee, spluttered cumin, sautéed half of minced ginger-garlic, a couple of slit green chillies, added onions and fried until light brown. I then added asafoetida and gave it a mix.
  • Added the rest of ginger-garlic mince and mixed for a minute.
  • Added tomatoes, chilli powder, turmeric powder and fried until aromatic.
  • Tipped the cooked lentils into this, mixed well and simmered for 8-10 minutes. Turned the stove off, added yoghurt blended with sugar/ just yoghurt and gave it a good whisk (I really just added a teeny pinch as we are not fond of sweetness in our otherwise savoury dishes). Garnish with sauteed chopped green chillies and a bit of garlic.

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We enjoyed this dal with  rice and some tortilla wraps and it paired well with both. I felt like the addition of the yoghurt with some sugar was something unique to this recipe and one that I had not done before. Also, I usually pressure cook the dal and to cook this in a saucepan and removing the froth was a first timer for me. I see so many explanations for this on the internet some of which look pretty dubious to me so I will refrain from adding my own explanation until I get some clear answer (please do share your thoughts if you know more about this). But it looks like it does not affect the taste much so pressure-cooking should be fine too.

Have you tried this version yet? Is there a different way of making a Haryanvi dal? I’d love to know. Isn’t it wonderful how your kitchen can take you places and bring to you some of those joys that you seek on your travels?

Humbled by dal – India through dal from my kitchen

Comfort food has always been a source of fascination to me. How do people associate food with comfort? Is it something that evokes a pleasant memory from childhood or later years? Is it something that soothes the tummy? Is it food made by a loved one? Is it something that smells and feels like home? Is it a cure for homesickness?  Is it something you can whip up in a minute and feel happy as you dive into it? Does it stay constant or or, is it just something that changes with time? Is it a family heirloom?

My comfort food, I have come to realise, is a mix of all of the above. Perhaps, that is also why I cannot think of other reasons though am sure there must be (please do share). I cannot tell you how unbearably happy these comfort meals make me. I get pangs of homesickness (yes, even after 6 years of being away from home with yearly or bi-yearly visits) and just the process of making this and the smells that wrap my kitchen and home and ultimately my senses – is so beautiful. I sometimes mostly make a dish to evoke a memory, to feel someone’s presence. There are so many dishes and so many memories I have but my ultimate comfort food is and will always be khichDi (in all its zillion varieties but mostly the one my ma makes), upma and curd rice (with lime or maavDu – story for another day).

But, I cannot neglect a close contender – the dal. I like dal in a lot of forms – sambhar, the dal fry that K makes with some magic powder (I now know that it is the pav bhaji masala sprinkled towards the end) and the very humble paruppu that is made on most festivals and served on piping hot rice and ghee. But this dal is a ubiquitous favourite. I say that because, it seems to be a comfort food for so many of my friends – ask anyone and phat comes the reply, “dal chaawal”, “paruppu saadam”, “dal, rice and potato roast” and it is amazing how dal has pervaded our homes and tummies. So much that, it is an ingredient and a dish! And yet, when I probe, everyone has their own way of making it and savouring it.  Much like chai/tea. Now, imagine the length and breadth of India, the varieties of dal and try to estimate the hundreds of ways dal must be made! So, I decided to embark on a journey. To read and discover India through dal.

Now, what does dal mean? To me and for the purpose of this series – I want to cover the different types of lentils in India and the methods of preparation. Dal/lentil is a broad term and refers to all legumes (lentils, peas, and beans) that are cooked and perfected in several ways. And that is exactly how the series will define dal thereby including it in all its variety. Whole, split, soaked, dried – every lentil will included. Initially, I wanted to make this all about dal as a gravy. But that may make this way too focussed – so I am going to open this up to dal in all forms, as an accompaniment to rice/rotis/chappatis/ flatbreads (if you do not know what rotis and chapatis are)/ paranthas (stuffed flatbread), a gravy, soup, powder, snacks, everything I can lay my hands on and feast on, eventually. You get the gist. I may have changed my mind because I want to definitely include the amboDe/ paruppu vaDa because I cannot imagine life without it. I want to visit every state and understand how they make dal – this means, I will watch as many varieties of food documentaries, read books, ask friends, talk to family and you. I will then recreate them in my kitchen and bring them to you. I am no food blogger so I will not have beautifully laid out photos but what I bring to you is a reflection of my journey, a favourite episode from a show, a memory that I created, a relationship forged, a little hack and a meal that lasted and took me across my most favourite place in this universe – India. I want to do this weekly but I know there will be times I may fall back – but I will persist and endeavour to give this a part of my time every week.

All I ask of you is this – stories and recipes of dal that you love, moments that you cherish and your own love for dal. I want to listen to you and read all of your stories. I don’t know where this will take me but it is a journey I wish to make. And one that I want to take you along.

 

 

 

 

 

Lunch and a story at The Eagle, Cambridge

A week ago, we drove to Cambridge with a friend who was visiting us from Singapore. It was such a wonderful trip (more pictures and snippets on that soon). I want to quickly share a little accidental discovery that we realised later and the irony of it.

It was one of the hottest days in UK and after being toasted and roasted and crinkled from the sun (it is a thing here too, people), we decided to walk into a restaurant that catches our fancy; after all, our intuitions with food have been good in general. As we walked along Benet street, we came across “The Eagle” and we absolutely loved how dated it was and how much of a character it had. It is a traditional 16th century English pub with wooden flooring and just a very lovely rustic feel to it that I love.

They only have a couple of vegetarian options and I chose the mushroom ragout with pasta and a fantastic garlic bread to boot and some lentils. The meal was very good with the only shortcoming being the low spice and flavour in the lentils.

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So here is the juicy part – apparently, this was the place where Watson and Crick announced that they had discovered the “secret of life”. I was just reading more about this pub while posting it on my instagram and then saw that it has such a juicy piece of history. I do not know for sure how true this is, but isn’t it fantastic when something like this happens to you? To have been in the place where the discovery of DNA was talked about – the secret of life, indeed! To imagine the kind of curiosity, condescension, wonder and hesitation that may have greeted such news!

We all strive to become someone, to do something significant with our lives, to make a discovery, a change that touches one life or a few, that leaves us immortal, makes us proud and gives our short time here some greater meaning – and to have shared one such space for a brief moment albeit years later, is a happy reminder to prod on.

The Bun-Man

Beeeeeeeeeeep. Trrrrrrrrrrr.

The sound jolted her out of her sleep. She knew the sound too well. For the past few days, she had been looking forward to it. Infact, 5 P.M. became associated with the sound and the familiar sight that had now become perfunctory. It was a sight that one could watch on forever. It exuded love, warmth and oodles of unbinding and yet the most loyal affection and belonging. So much so that everyone stopped their evening walk and stood transfixed to watch the scene as though mesmerized at the very sight of it. It happened daily but nobody seemed to mind.

From her window, she could see the luna stop right infront of their red gates. An elderly man in the same grey tee and blue tracks got off it. Oblivious of the now gathered mini-crowd around his, he carefully untied the huge plastic sack that he had had meticulously tied to his handle and held between the legs as he rode the luna. A big big sack.

She could see that now the windows of every first floor and second floor were open and many pairs of awestruck eyes peered through the multi-coloured grills. Little kids stuck out their podgy little fingers through them and tried to get as much of their head out as possible. Some ran out to the balcony but not making a sound because nobody wanted to disturb such a beautiful sight. Nope. Not a sound.

She saw that the road was now getting more crowded. Not by people so much. But those who waited for his arrival loyally everyday started to come out from every nook of the locality. She wondered why she hadn’t seen even half of them during the day.

They came to him from all directions. Those new ones with beseeching eyes, the ones with charming eyes, the ones with brown coats, the ones that had just recovered from marismus (she didn’t know what they called it though), the ones that look plump but never seemed to have had enough anyways, the ones with the snow white coats, the black coated round-eyed ones, the little ones that wagged their tail so much that the tails seemed to fall off, the pregnant mothers – everyone was here.

He lovingly opened the packet and with a firm and yet tender voice, he said “hirrup boys! Come get them” and pulled out the buns one by one, divided them into 4 pieces and played a catch game with each member around him. How he managed to have so many buns to feed the increasing mouths without disappointing a single one baffled her. How could he know how many extras he needed?

And how he divided the bun into pieces ! It looked as though he could perfectly divide them so that every chap there got the right piece and none was made to feel less loved.

She loved the way his hands, firm and gentle all at once played with them. She loved the way how this one small sight that lasted about 20 minutes united the otherwise busy neighbourhood. She loved how every mother promised to show this piece of heaven to their child every morning to entice them into going to school.

She prayed to God that the greying man should never die and continue to captivate everyone through this small act.

The dogs loved him. They reciprocated their love for him through hidden smiles, love-struck eyes and the gentlest nudges. They smiled and nodded in approval. It was their time of the day.

The bun-man had come.

P.S. This is one my most treasured memories from my childhood. To this day, he is easily one of my most favourite human beings in the whole universe.

Little touches.

A week or two back, as I chopped some cabbage to make some palya (Kannada for a dry vegetable stir fry dish – there are a zillion varieties), I realised yet again how much of my mother resides in me. In the past month or so, I am increasingly beginning to take notice of this. Of how far I have come and yet how much of home lives in me.

Ma used to never hurry or half-heartedly make anything. We may not have had elaborate and extravagant meals that seem to flood social media these days where a regular meal has half a dozen fantastic looking (and tasting) dishes. What we did have was one fantastic regular meal that was cooked with panache. I say this because ma always had some idea of up-ing a dish – maybe a different oggaraNe*(Kannada for seasoning) or some ground paste or a not commonly thought of vegetable combination. We were not big foodies (I am a foodie now thanks to K) but we appreciated good food. But it was not just about good food with ma. It was about giving yourself and giving it all when you take up something. Cooking, cleaning, making flower garlands, saying a prayer, meticulously looking at bank statements – everything was done to completion and to the best of her abilities. It did not matter as much to her how perfect the outcome was so long as she had given her best. And not a thing has changed. The lesson stays on.

So, as I chopped the cabbage and then pictured a possible paste that would amp up this palya, I thought to myself, “I will make it the way ma makes it, that would go better with…”, and then caught myself smiling. It is strange how these things rub off on you unwittingly. Which is why I do not feel as disappointed when something does not work out inspire f giving my all. But if I feel disappointed for something I haven’t worked for, I catch myself and remind myself of how it was more about me and not the circumstance. This mentality has helped me a lot and I am so grateful for it.

Small little actions that we did not notice as much back then but they have now become part of us, my brother and I. It warms my heart every single time I realise how close my parents are to me inspite of being thousands of miles away. And I cannot emphasise how beautiful that feeling is.

P.S. The featured image is the palya and it was great, incase you were wondering.

Taking the plunge.

It has been almost a year since I “started” this blog. I find it funny that I am writing now considering how this has been on my mind for so long. I have been toying with the idea of what my first post on this blog would look like, sometimes looking at photos from my travels this year (there have been quite a few of those this year, I tell you) and making repeated mental notes to write about them. Or, like yesterday when I was rearranging my wardrobe and wanted to write about this saree. Yet, it has taken this long, why?

Sometimes I wait too long. To make that perfect beginning, to want keep this place a reflection of my best. Now, this is really funny because, I intend for this space to be an honest me. After all, it is my life and times. Yet, I crave for a fantastic start. Like, when I start writing in a fresh notebook. I cannot tell you the amount of effort I put in making sure that the first page is my best writing, my best work. Sometimes, it takes too long. And something snapped. I don’t want to be that person anymore. I want to just start – and let it flow, uninterrupted by my unnecessary obsession for a “great” start.

So.

We moved. Again. From Singapore to UK. Surrey.  I still travel to sunny Singapore, am still a graduate student. And well, Singapore will always be my home, wherever I am. I found a third home I guess. At least I am warming up to the idea of UK being home. Before the big move, we heard all kinds of jokes from friends in Singapore about the 5 days of summer that London has, on how we must enjoy the sun while it lasts yada yada. Even the electrician who came to fix some stuff in our UK home didn’t understand why we would move from Singapore to England. I wish I could thrust this weather at them and see what jokes they make now. It has been so hot and sunny for two months now, sans the humidity that Singapore has in abundance (that we do not miss at all). I am not a sunny person. I mean, I enjoy sunshine but it does not decide my mood. I dislike hot and humid. I love winters (okay this maybe coming soon, but for now, I love them). It has been okay so far. I do like sunlight until 9 PM, so we are enjoying it (while it lasts).

We have found a home, all our shipment is unpacked. It was pretty daunting to see how much two people who do not have a hobby of collecting anything, can accumulate. I am not looking at you, books. Tsundoku is my thing, it adds value to our lives. At least I have convinced K of it. Seriously, all the travel and moving has made me watch videos on small homes and minimalism. I have not shopped for 2 months now, or maybe, three. It is liberating. That’s fodder for another day.

The thing is this. You don’t need much else to be happy about, in Surrey. There are so many wonderful surprises you encounter on a random walk in our neighbourhood, like this.

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If random walks lead to a gorgeous sunset behind that veil of green climbers, I am all for you, Surrey. I cannot wait to see what you have in store for us and what we make of you and our time here.

 

Namaste.

Namaste.

After much mulling, random 3 AM thoughts, pondering over coffee, flashes of inspiration from instagram and web-hopping , here I am. This isn’t the first time am foraying into the world of blogging/ internet diary-ing. I have had an active blog in the past for a couple of years before embarking on a new journey. Blogging has always been a creative expression of myself, one that is honest, liberating and joyful. I have shared my travels, little stories from my everyday life, experiments in the kitchen, movies I have liked and books that linger. My earlier writing delights me as much as it makes me cringe. But, am grateful I wrote them down because they make me bask in the past and remind me of how far I have come, of how some events all make sense now. And all those wonderful memories seem to become more concrete when worded. I may even repost and share some of them here.

I now feel like making a fresh start. A new space on the www. A new beginning. A lot of my reactions, opinions, ability to take perspectives, choices and perceptions have changed. Sometimes, I catch myself thinking of an issue and consciously realize how I would have formed an entirely different opinion or gone through a different thought process like 2 years back. My interests now span a diaspora of topics and I am raring to share my outlook here for myself and for any of you visiting me here. I am an aspiring polymath and look forward to sharing my thoughts and stories here. Do say a hi anytime!

Welcome. I’m Piyu.