Dal, soupy fragrant lentils, and Bhartt, basmati rice, is probably what most Indian people will tell you is their absolute comfort food. The dal varies from region to region in India, thick or soupy, using different lentils or using sugar like Gujarati dal. Gujarati dal for rice is soupy and hot, sweet and sour all at the same time, a flavour combination you’ll find in a lot of Gujarati food.
My Gujarati dal recipe is very easy to make, and makes a great dinner if you’re feeling a bit under the weather and in need of some nutritious comfort food. You boil the dal first and once it is done, blend it up and then temper mustard seeds, cumin, chilli and curry leaves before pouring over the top of your cooked dal – this adds an extra dimension of flavour to your dal and where you get your hot and sour from.
This dal is usually eaten after or with the main part of a meal (curry and roti) which is how I most often have it, and it also makes a nice light dinner. The toor dal you will need can be found in Indian supermarkets and most large supermarkets with an Indian food section.
1 cup of toor dal (oily)`
5 cups of water
1 fresh tomato, sliced in half
2cm knob of ginger, grated or minced
2 tbsp sugar or jaggery
pinch of salt
1/2 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
scant 1/4 tsp hing / asafoetida
For the vagar (temper)
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
1 dried red chilli or pinch of dried chilli flakes
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
4-5 dried curry leaves
1. Wash your dal in a few rinses of cold water
2. Add to a large saucepan with the water and bring to the boil, uncovered. Turn the heat right down, add the ginger, put the lid on and leave it for 30 – 40 minutes until the dal is very soft.
3. Add the tomato, sugar, salt, chilli, turmeric and hing, simmer for 10 minutes.
4. Blend, and then leave off the heat with the lid on whilst you do the vagar/temper
5. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan or small non-stick saucepan. Once very hot add the vagar ingredients, when the mustard seeds pop and sizzle remove from the heat.
7. Now carefully remove the lid from the dal, pour in the hot vagar mixture and put the lid straight back on. It’s quite strong so you may have a little coughing fit! Let it settle and then stir to combine everything. Taste and season and spice as necessary.
Serve with hot fluffy basmati rice!