It all started with me craving mom's food. You know, you get that feeling sometimes; you just want to be taken back to your childhood when mom took care of everything and made these simple dishes that just made you feel happy and content?! That's my definition of comfort food. I want to go back in time and feel like a pampered girl!
Anyway, as I was moping around so, I also had to face the reality of making dinner... myself!! (Sighhh). So a friend suggested that I make the quintessential comfort food of Indian cuisine - Dal. Bless my friend for the suggestion. I love my mom's dal and I figured making some version of it would be the right recipe to satiate my cravings!
Dal is made differently (even pronounced differently; Dhal in the South and Dal in the north) across the country. Dal, actually, is not so much a South Indian staple; we have Sambhar for that. But, with increasing culinary exposure and interaction, you find some form of it all over the place.
My mom learnt to make dal when my family lived in the middle of the country for a couple of years. Frankly, I can't imagine what they do for fun in those parts (thank god I was too tiny to bother!) but they do cook up delicious meals. As a newly wed still figuring out her way around the kitchen, mom learnt from some of the best home cooks central India had to offer.
Back to my dinner. Now, as long as I was making dal, I thought I would dress it up a bit. Poking around my pantry, I found semi-ripe mangoes and mint. In the state of Andhra Pradesh, Mango Dal (Maamidikaya Pappu) is a classic dish made during the spring months with green (unripe) mangoes. So, I decided to borrow the concept from my Andhra cousins and add a bit of my own flavors to it to make this mint & mango dal.
There was my dinner in under 30 minutes! Piping hot rice doused with the nostalgic dal and fried coconut plantains as the side. Oh! It was heavenly and the perfect antidote to my home-sick blues.
So that's my go-to beat the blues meal! What's yours?
Mint & Mango Dal
1/2 cup of Masoor dal/red lentils
2 cups water
1/4 tsp turmeric
for the saute:
1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 onion diced small
1 plum tomato diced small
2 green chilies minced
1/2 tsp grated ginger
1 clove of garlic minced
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 medium unripe or semi-ripe mango diced rough
2 T mint leaves
salt to taste
Pressure cook the masoor dal/lentils with the water, turmeric and salt until fully cooked. If you don't have a pressure cooker, then boil the raw dal in 3 cups of water with the salt and turmeric until fully cooked.
Meanwhile, saute the cumin andmustard seeds in 2 T of vegetable oil till the mustard seeds start to pop. Add the onions, ginger, garlic and green chillies and saute until the onions are soft. Stir in the dry spices and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and cook for a few more minutes.
Whisk the cooked lentils in the cooking liquid until smooth and creamy. Mix the creamed lentils into the onion-tomate mixture. On a high flame, let the dal come to a rolling boil. Lower the flame to medium and toss in mango and bruised mint leaves. Pop the lid on the pan and let cook for a few minutes.
Off the heat, stir in 1 T of ghee (the one made from milk and also called clarified butter). Ladle generously over hot rice and serve with a side of spicy, fried vegetables/meat or simply papad. I love eating dal-rice with salty potato chips!