Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Moong Dhal with Roti

This recipe is one I've loved since I was young. I used to ask my mom to make it for me, as a special treat. It's kind of odd when you think about it - who'd have thought that vegetarian Indian lentils with roti could be seen as a treat?

The original recipe is from my Indian Delights cookbook, which was a gift from my parents upon leaving the house. Unfortunately, the recipes it contains are somewhat vague, to say the least - presumably, they are meant to be prepared by Indian women who already know what they're doing in the kitchen. You see, the cookbook was published by the Women's Cultural Group of South Africa in 1970, and the dedication reads as follows: "This book is dedicated to all husbands who maintain that the best cooking effort of their wives can never compare with what 'mother used to make'."

Since I've made this dish numerous times, and have never really followed (or figured out) the recipe, I'm including my version here. It's really simple and very satisfying.

Moong Dhal (Moong Lentils)
2 cups moong dhal (soaked in water for a few hours)
3 medium onions (finely chopped)
2-3 green chilies (seeds removed)
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tsp fresh grated ginger
1 tsp fresh chopped garlic
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
3-4 tbsp vegetable oil
1 cup chopped tomatoes (either canned or fresh with skins removed)
roti (or brown rice)
lemon wedges and chopped cilantro for garnish

1. Braise onions in oil until they are soft, but not brown.
2. Add all the spices to the onion mixture and stir to coat.
3. Add tomatoes and dhal and 6 cups of water.
(I never seem to get the amount of water just right - sometimes I end up adding a bit more part way through the cooking if it looks like it's getting too dry - but I'd aim for about 3 cups of water for each 1 cup of dhal. In the original recipe, the directions say: "Care must be taken that there is just enough water to cook dhal, otherwise dhal will be soggy." But how much is just enough . . . ?)
4. Simmer on medium low heat for about 45 minutes, or until dhal is soft and slightly browned at the bottom.
5. Garnish with chopped cilantro, fresh lemon wedges, and serve with hot roti (fortunately, you can buy roti at most grocery stores these days).

This dish will please vegetarians and carnivores alike!


Laura said...

This sounds absolutely delicious, Alisha. I like the story behind it, too. Good title for a cookbook, really. Reminds me of all those Elizabethan recipes I read which had no quantities of anything whatsoever, or say something like 'prepare the coney in the usual way.' Ah. Of course! So is there a recipe for the roti?

Meg said...

mmmm, moong lentils are my favourite! I can't wait to try this recipe. And I love the big chunk o'lemon on top, that makes my mouth water...

Meg said...

Great recipe Alisha! Mmmm, it was perfect. The liquid was just the right amount - I used about half tomatoes, and half water though. The spices are nice and subtle. So comforting. Much better than the movie we watched while eating it (Orange County)...

Leeeeesha said...

Yay! I'm glad you liked the recipe, Meg! So, what did you think of the roti? Did you like the lentils better with it or with the brown rice?

Laura, unfortunately I've never attempted to make my own roti, though I'm pretty sure there's a recipe for it in the Indian Delights cookbook. But I have a feeling that it'll be the kind of recipe which only makes sense if you've grown up watching your mother (and/or aunts and grandmothers) prepare it countless times. Anyone feeling up for a challenge . . . ?