Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Simply Seasoned Dhal (Maharashtrian style dhal/ varan)

After all the parties, sweets and traveling that I have done in the past few weeks, I have been craving something simple ever since I got back. And dhals like this one, define comfort food in my book :) Varan is a Maharashtrian dhal, that is served with rice. "Varan bhaat" is a famous combination in Maharashtrian food.Varan= dhal and Bhaat= steamed rice, this is usually served with a tad bit of ghee. This combination always reminds me of the tamilian parappu saadam, which is essentially the same thing, parappu= cooked dhal and saadam= steamed rice.

I have seen various versions of varan, some with just cooked dhal with only seasoned cumin and salt for taste and some that add onions, tomatoes and goda masala (Maharashtrian style curry powder) My version of this dhal is on the simpler side, just some seasoning and a few spices. This time I made this with this Maharashtrian style spring onion curry. Along with some phulkas and some steamed rice, this turned out to be exactly what I was looking for, a nourishing, hearty and healthy meal :)

Simply Seasoned Dhal-Lentil curry

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Ingredients and Method to make Simply seasoned Dhal
1 cup split pigeon peas/ tur dhal/ arhar dhal/ tuvaram parappu
salt to taste
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp oil
3/4 tsp mustard seeds (rai/ kadagu)
3/4 tsp cumin seeds (jeera/jeeragam)
3 Thai or Indian variety green chilies slit lengthwise (or to taste)
pinch of asafoetida (hing/ perungayam)
sprig of curry leaves (kadipatha/ karvapillai) (about 8 to 10 leaves)
3 tbsp finely cut cilantro (coriander leaves/ hara dhania/kothamalli) for garnish

Rinse dhal a few times and soak in 2 and 1/2 cups of water for 30 minutes to an hour. Pressure cook until soft, usually with my pressure cooker that is about 3 whistles and then I turn down the heat and allow it to stay on low heat for another 3 to 4 minutes before switching off heat. See notes if you want to cook this on the stove top. After the pressure subsides, remove dhal from cooker and mash thoroughly.

Add salt, sugar and turmeric powder to it and mix well. In a small pan heat oil, add mustard seeds and allow it to splutter. Add  cumin seeds, when it sizzles, add green chilies. Stir a few times, then add asafoetida powder and curry leaves. Keep away a bit, as curry leaves can cause oil to splatter a tad bit. Remove and pour entire seasoning on the dhal mixture.

Add water as required to achieve required consistency and allow this mixture to simmer for a few minutes until all the flavors mingle. Garnish with cilantro and remove from heat.
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Serve hot with some plain steamed rice and a curry on the side. This time I served it with rice and this spring onion curry/ zunka. Sometimes I also make this with rice and this Maharashtrian style cabbage curry on the side. Or this dhal can be served with some phulkas/ Indian wheat flat breads too :)

If you want to cook the dhal on the stove top. Soak for at least an hour, place in a heavy bottomed pan with water and simmer until soft. Add some more water if required and stir often to ensure evenly cooked lentils and to make sure the lentils do not stick to the bottom of the pan.

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