Once in a while, I have the urge to drastically de-clutter, clean, weed ... simplify, really!
On days like these I crave the simplest of foods. No matter how far one has traveled or how much you have adopted another place as home, the simplest food is never a new love. It is always the one that has been in your memories since your first every memory. Because the innocence of the yearning and the complete satiation of it can only come from that deep level inside you.
Hmm.. Just struck me.. Does this mean that one can never entirely shake off what is inherently their 'root' as hard as one may try? ... I wonder! - point for
Anyway, for me, the simplest food I can recall taking happy comfort in my mom's super simple dish of boiled, salted lentils, fluffy while rice and dollops of ghee with a side of homemade pickle. That was
! This is essentially the simplest form of
Now, ofcourse the whole definition of Dal is a variable! Depending on the region in India, culture, religion, dietary restrictions etc. the dal one grows up with can be very different from your classmate's at school! Nevertheless, to each it is always that enveloping cocoon of comfort that one seeks in the most turbulent of times to the most ecstatic. Eating dal can be a truly transcendental and perhaps one of the most leveling food experiences!
That is to say, this is really at the most basic level, peasant food - good, hearty, healthy and life-giving. Dal-Chawal is staple food across the country, never mind the actual recipe. A peasant lunch would be a simple dal, rice, a piece of raw onion or pickle and some tea, perhaps. As your wallet allows it other ingredients are added and the final indulgence of ghee rounds it off as the last defense into luxury.
Now, while I am at it, I have to pause and wonder at how many 'peasant meals' are indeed the most comforting ones across time and strata even in the most elegant cuisines.... pizza, pot-au-feu so on....
Homemade Simple Dal
1 cup split toor dal (yellow pigeon peas), soaked overnight or atleast 3 hours in hot water
3 cloves of garlic, smashed
2-1/2 cups water
2 tsp of cumin seeds
ghee, brown butter (without milk solids), butter or just good, mild olive oil - as needed
salt as needed
Heat the fat in a heavy bottom pan or pressure cooker on medium heat. Toast the cumin seeds and garlic in the oil for a couple of minutes until you can smell the cumin and garlic. Drain the lentils and add to the vessel with the water. Season with a teaspoon of salt. If you are using a pressure cooker, close the lid and let it cook for 15 minutes at maxmimum pressure or 4 whistles, depending on the style. If you are boiling in a pot, boil until the lentils are really tender, about 35 minutes. You may need a bit more water as you go.
When the lentils are fully cooked and really soft, whisk them around using a hand whisk to almost puree consistency. You can surely process it but there usually is no need to use a blender. Swirl more butter or ghee into the dal and it's ready to serve with steaming hot rice and crackers or pickle. Another great accompaniment for this is potato chips or simply home fried potatoes!