Country of origin: India
This is a delicious, comforting dish, eaten with steaming Basmati rice. The name literally means cooked and flavoured pulses (dāl) and rice (bhat). It’s a pretty staple Gujarati dish that comes in many variations.
In this version dried pigeon peas – which are the base of the dāl – are cooked and then blitzed with tomato, ginger, chilli and lemon juice, and then this mixture is cooked again, adding further flavour.
This isn’t a hard and fast recipe, but for roughly two servings the ingredients are:
1 cup of dried toor dāl (pigeon peas), washed thoroughly
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice, to taste (I used bottled, so adjust quantity to taste if using fresh)
1/2 tablespoon sugar, to taste
1/2 teaspoon ginger, finely chopped
Chopped green chilli, to taste (I used about half a teaspoon)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon salt, to taste
Pinch of mustard seeds
Pinch of fenugreek seeds
Three of four dried curry leaves
1/2 a can of tomatoes, blitzed
2 cups Basmati rice, cooked
1. Cook the dāl: Start by thoroughly rinsing the dāl. It then needs to be pressure cooked on a medium heat with 3 cups water for about 15 minutes until it looks pulpy and tastes cooked (alternatively, I think soaking dried dāl overnight and then boiling for a few hours until soft and cooked works too, but not tried and tested).
2. Add flavour: Remove the pressure cooker from the heat and add in the blitzed tomato, lemon juice, sugar, chilli, ginger, tumeric and salt, and whiz with a stick blender. It’s much easier to add about half the lemon juice, sugar, chilli and salt, and then add more to taste as you blitz it all together (I’ve found that you can’t really taste the chilli at this stage, so go easy, the intensity seems to come out after stage three below). The dull yellow cooked pigeon peas will now be transformed into a beautiful and fragrant orange.
3. The vaghaar/chaunk (tempering) stage: In a different pan, add about a tablespoon of oil, the mustard and fenugreek seeds and the curry leaves on a medium heat. When the seeds start sizzling and releasing their aroma add the cooked dāl mixture, stir well and let simmer on a low heat for ten minutes. Serve with hot rice and if you like, a dollop of yoghurt. It freezes well and doubles up as a delicious spicy soup without the rice.
Something I would like to try next is using fresh tomatoes instead of canned, which I think would give the dish a more delicate flavour.