Brown or Green Lentil Dal
Sabut Masoor Dal
Top Picture: Whole Masoor. 2nd picture: Whole Masoor with 'Tarka'. Bottom picture: uncooked Masoor
In its raw state, this dal actually looks dark grey/green/brown in colour and is often referred to by children as 'kali dal' (black dal). It is one of my favourite dals. Its split and skinless version is known as red lentil in the West. (Sometimes it is also called Puy Lentil, which it is not. Puy lentils are kind of slate greyish in colour, more expensive and come from Le Puy region of South-Central France. Puy lentl is said to have better flavour and hold their shape better.)
If you eat lentils regularly, I would recommend buying a pressure cooker. It makes cooking dals much quicker and easier. The water required and cooking times given here is average but do remember that there are many variants in cooking. For example, quality of the lentil, softness of water, whether the dal was soaked beforehand (soaked dals take a little less time to cook), the intensity of heat and the efficiency of your pressure cooker. It will get easier as you cook more dals. Remember that if undercooked, you can cook a dal some more but you can't do anything with overcooked dal. It does not taste bad if overcooked, only looks are not good. Serves 4
1 cup whole masoor
4 cups boiling hot water (use more if not using pressure cooker)
Salt to taste (1-1 1/2 tsp.)
1/2 tsp. turmeric powder
For basic tarka (for other types of tarka, see notes below):
2-3 tbsp. ghee or cooking oil. Ghee tastes better but oil is healthier.
1 tsp. cumin seeds
A large pinch of asafoetida or hing powder
2-3 whole red chillies broken up
1/2 tsp. chilli powder
1 onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp. finely chopped ginger
1-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or mashed
Wash dal well and soak in water for an hour or so.
Drain this water off before cooking.
Cooking in Pressure cooker
Place the dal, water, salt and turmeric in the pressure cooker. Add optional ingredients, if used. Cook under full pressure for 7-8 minutes.
Allow the pressure cooker to cool down before opening.
Open the lid and check water. If too thick, add a little boiling water until it reaches the consistency you desire.
Cooking without a pressure cooker
Place the dal, 5-6 cups water, salt and turmeric in a pan. Add optional ingredients, if used. Bring to boil. Now simmer briskly until soft but not mushy. You may need to add more water through the cooking process, if the dal begins to look too thick and dry. Dals, when ready, should be soft but not mashed.
Place in a serving bowl.
Cooking in a slow cooker
Place 2 cups of washed dal with 5-6 cups water in the slow cooker bowl, add salt and turmeric and optional ingredients, if used. Leave to cook on medium heat for 6-8 hours. I start on high for a couple of hours and then turn it to medium.
Basic tarka or tempering:
Heat ghee or oil in a tarka ladle or a small pan.
Add cumin seeds and asafoetida powder and let the seeds start to splutter.
Add whole chillies and chillies powder, stir with a small spoon, add to the cooked dal and cover with a lid. This will infuse the smoke and flavours into the dal and stop the dal from splashing out during tempering.
Other variations of tarka or tempering:
After spluttering the cumin/mustard seeds, add a little grated ginger and/or garlic to the hot oil, fry until it begins to turn golden brown. Add chillies and chilli powder. Now add to the dal. Or
After spluttering the cumin/mustard seeds, add one chopped onion, 1 tsp. each of grated ginger and garlic (only if not already added during boiling of the dal), and fry until browned. Add 2 chopped tomatoes, 1 tsp. curry powder or sambhar powder. Fry a little longer and add to dal.
Also see Dal Selection.
Other points about cooking dals:
The amount of dal required per person depends on whether you are serving the dal with roti or with rice. Rice requires more dal.
Dals often get thicker when cold/chilled. You may need to add a little more hot water, before serving.
You can add chopped coriander leaves to all dals as a garnish.
Overcooked or leftover dal can be added to roti or chapatti flour when making a dough. This makes delicious roti and paratha.