Saturday 5 November 2011

a new daal

When I am feeling unwell, I often revert to the comfort foods of my childhood. One of these is "khichdi" which is a lentil/rice dish, which is said to be the origins of the British breakfast dish, kedgeree. Different regions in India cook this dish differently, often based upon the more commonly used lentil in the region. As my mother is Bengali and my father is Sindhi, opposite sides of the original country, the 2 types of khichdi I grew up eating are very different.

Bengali khichdi for me is yellow and quite substantial and has onions and potatoes and ginger cooked in, and is something I eat with fried egg, plenty of butter and enjoy on a wet day especially. This uses the yellow split mung daal.

Sindhi khichdi is a breakfast dish or lunch dish which we would eat with roasted poppadum, butter and home made lemon pickle. This uses the split but still husked green mung daal, the lentil which when whole is sprouted to make beansprouts as eaten in chinese cuisine. It is also much simpler and less of a meal on it's own than the yellow Bengali one.

So, a while back, I bought a pack of each lentil, but found I more tend to make the yellow khichdi, and as my usual daal dinner is made with masoor red lentils, which I know everyone likes, the bag of split green mung was sitting neglected.

Well, my mother has always told me that breastfeeding women should avoid red lentils as they are used in India to dry up a milk supply, and since I do not wish to risk my milk supply (there is a similar prohibition of sage and parsley in western cultures) I realised I had to find a new daal to cook regularly, and seeing the neglected pack, I decided to google for a recipe, and was delighted to find a Sindhi recipe! As the Sindhis are a displaced people, and I don't have a lot of knowledge of Sindhi culture, I was happy to learn this dish. My only amusing problem is I didn't at all understand one reference in the Indian recipe, which is to cook the lentils in the pressure cooker for a number of whistles, instead of for a set amount of time. I tried doing a similar time as I do for masoor, and it was perfect, but some subsequent research showed that there is a different type of pressure cooker used in India which is more affordable than the western available ones, and it uses a variable pressure regulator which whistles, as opposed to a constant pressure regulator which just hisses. Therefore, the cooking times don't translate directly, but on average it works out to about 3 minutes per "whistle" if you happen to stumble across one of these recipes.
As a bag of lentils is very cheap especially a large bag from an Indian shop, this is definitely a frugal meal, and was very delicious, and everyone was remarked upon how it tastes exactly like my dad's secret poppadom recipe, in daal form!

Saayi Daal

1 cup split green mung lentils
2 tomatoes
2 or more green chillies
1" piece of ginger
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
salt to taste
for the tadka:
4 cloves of garlic
5-6 curry leaves
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp oil

Wash and soak lentils for about half an hour. You will find some of the skins of the lentils come off, you may discard or use them as you prefer.
Put the lentils, chopped tomatoes, chopped chillies, chopped or grated ginger, salt and turmeric into a pressure cooker and add about 3 cups of water.
Bring up to pressure adn cook for 7-9 minutes. Alternatively, cook in a saucepan for 20-25 minutes.
Mash lightly if needed.

Meanwhile, heat the spoonful of oil in a small pan, add crushed garlic, curry leaves and cumin seeds - in that order. Let the cumin brown, then immediately pour into pan of daal.

Cook for a further 5 mins in pressure cooker or simmer for 15 more mins in pan to allow the flavours to mingle.

Serve with boiled rice.


  1. Just reading it gave me comfort. Chicken noodle soup had to suffice today.

  2. if reading it gave you comfort, you really MUST try making it. We had it last night and I'm still feeling all cuddled...