Daal Fry (and some history)

My mother and grandmother are both amazing cooks. They’re amazing because their food tastes wonderful, they cook by instinct instead of sticking to recipes, and they’re ridiculously efficient. My mother can start from scratch and whip up a full Indian meal, and leave the kitchen clean and tidy in less than an hour. I’d say it’s unbelievable but I’ve seen her do it my whole life. My grandmother is in her late eighties and still (despite her family’s protests) gets up and cooks a little something every day. I can only hope that I’ve gotten some of their culinary skills and that maybe one day, some of their efficiency and tenacity will rub off on me!

Over the last few years, I’ve begun trying my hand in the kitchen from time to time, with pastas, curries, or deserts here and there. I go through phases with food – some months I cook regularly, and some months it seems like I’m a daily Seamless customer. I really want to break the ordering-in habit, though, so I’m going to start trying to plan my weekly meals and food prep schedule. I thought I’d share my successes and failures here. Some will be recipes from my mother, some of my own, and some that I picked up other places and modified. I hope you enjoy, and that maybe it inspires you to get into the kitchen yourself! After all, there is nothing quite so satisfying as a home-cooked meal.

Daal Fry

My mother makes a variety of daals. We grew up having varan and different aamtis (Marathi terms), made with yellow split pigeon peas, moong daal, red masoor, or brown masoor. Each variation is delicious and satisfying at the end of a long day. There have been many times when I’ve come home from a trip and thought that all I really wanted was some varan-bhaat (rice and daal). It’s simple, home-cooked food at it’s best.

One quick and flavorful variation is what Mummy calls a “daal fry”, which you can make with moong daal or red masoor. Here is the recipe:

Ingredients

  • Red masoor [1 cup]
  • Vegetable Oil [2 tbsp]
  • Black mustard seeds (mohri) [1 tsp]
  • Cumin seeds (jeera) [1 tsp]
  • Asafoetida powder (hing) [1/2 tsp]
  • Garlic cloves, smashed [2-3]
  • Small onion, roughly chopped [1]
  • Small tomato, diced [1]
  • Water [1 cup]
  • Salt [1/2 tsp or to taste]
  • Pepper [1/2 tsp or to taste]
  • Red chili powder (laal mirch) [1/2 tsp, or to taste]
  • Clarified butter (ghee) [1 tsp, optional]
  • Cilantro, chopped [1/3 cup]

Steps

  • Rinse the red masoor 2-3 times and place in a bowl covered with water while you prepare the other ingredients.
    • Roughly chop the onions. Part of what makes this dish so good is biting into the onion, so you don’t want to dice it too finely.
    • Smash the garlic cloves. This is easily done by place the flat part of your knife blade on the clove and pressing down a couple times.
    • Dice the tomato. The tomato isn’t meant to be a main flavor, just add a balance of sweetness to enhance the other ingredients, so you don’t want chunks that are too large.
Ingredients 2

Soaking this daal is optional, but I find I like the consistency better if I do

Ingredients 1

  •  In a pot over medium heat, add the oil. Once the oil is heated (1-2 min) Add the mustard seeds, cumin seeds, asafoetida powder, and garlic cloves. Move it around with your utensil (I like to use a wooden spoon) so that the spices do not burn.
  • Add the onion and stir-fry until translucent. Do not let them brown.

Step 1

  • Add the tomato and fry until fragrant.
Step 2

Add tomatoes

Step 3

Fry until fragrant

  • Drain the daal and add it to the pot. Fry for 1-2 minutes. Keep stirring, so nothing burns.
  • Add the water and bring to a boil. Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the daal is cooked and has reached your desired thickness. (This is a daal that tastes best thick and not too watery.)
  • Add salt, pepper, red chili powder, and ghee to taste.
Ingredients 3

You can find ghee at Indian and Middle Eastern specialty stores, and some supermarkets. 

  • Add cilantro.

Step 4

  • Serve with white Basmati rice.
Final

The finished product! Daal-bhaat = the best comfort food. 

What kinds of daal or lentil recipes do you enjoy? What’s the meal that just reminds you of home? Let me know in the comments below, and let me know if you try making this! 🙂

 

 

Sorted Food

This past Sunday, Sorted Food, one of the most popular cooking channels on Youtube, hosted a meet up in Central Park. It was a grand conclusion to their #LostAndHungry tour across the US and was done in the typical Sorted fashion – lots of British banter, lots food talk, and lots of real, engaged interaction with viewers.

Me with the iconic Sorted mini-fridge!

Me with the iconic Sorted mini-fridge!

The day was supposed to start around 10 am, but Ben, Barry, Jamie, and Mike arrived around 9:30 to a handful of viewers. I was glad that I’d gotten there early too because it meant that I was able to have a conversation with Ben about their journey through the US. Ben is the actual trained chef of the group, so it was also cool to talk to him about things like a great dish versus a great dining meal and how your experience of food is so predicated on things that surround it – whether you cooked the meal or bought it, who your company is, what setting you’re in, etc.

Me with Ben Ebbrell, the chef behind Sorted Food

Me with Ben Ebbrell, the chef behind Sorted Food

“If you asked me what my favorite dishes on this trip were, I could probably list five, but if you asked me what my favorite dining experiences were I could probably also list five, but they would be an entirely different list than the first set.”

At 10 am, the guys gave (and filmed) an intro for the crowd, which had now swelled to probably about 80. We all split off into four groups (one with each member of the Sorted team) and we went off on an adventure to find food. I was in Mike’s team, and our task was to find something sweet. We were in my neck of the woods on the Upper East Side, so I immediately thought of taking the group to “O Merveilleux“, a darling little French café and pastry shop where Proma and I often like to go to work during the day. As we walked, I got to meet some of the other attendees. One lady was visiting with her husband and daughter from San Francisco and happened to be in town for the meet-up. She told me she had grown up in France and taught me the correct way to pronounce merveilleux (Proma and I always just call it “the bakery”) and recommended a pastry called chouquette from Maison Kayser. As the day went on, I also got to talk to other viewers and find out about their favorite food spots in the city. One viewer, Emily Tan, is a food photographer and gave me tips on using my new DSLR. It was cool to meet people over this random shared interest that we had all come to independently.

Once we got to our destination, Mike bought us all some macarons and gingerbread cookies to share.

Mike examining the fare at O Merveilleux

Mike and some viewers examining the fare at O Merveilleux

Mike and I showing of the macarons

Mike and I showing off the macarons

As the day went on, we went to more local spots including Two Little Red Hens (where we sampled a divine Brooklyn Blackout Cake), Orwasher’s Bakery (where we admired their display of freshly baked breads), and Maison Kayser (where I finally got to try the delicious little chouquettes).

Beautiful, mouth-watering pastries at Maison Kayser

Beautiful, mouth-watering pastries at Maison Kayser

We also stopped by Cascabel Taqueria for my favorite spicy guacamole and tostada to balance out all the sweetness and went downtown to check out the Pride parade that was happening that day.

We were only at the Pride parade briefly, but we spotted Lea DeLaria from Orange is the New Black

We were only at the Pride parade briefly, but we spotted Lea DeLaria from Orange is the New Black

Along the way, I got to talk to Mike about his experiences in the US. He talked about driving through the western part of the country and trying a proper Louisiana crawfish boil in a viewer’s home (see the video). He told me he used to be a school music and drama teacher. He said he missed a traditional British breakfast, so I recommended Jones Wood Foundry for their bangers and mash. He was planning on visiting Boston on his own after NYC so I told him to go to Quincy Market and have a real clam chowder. (The guys had tried it in San Francisco, which, to a Boston girl, really doesn’t count.) It was very cool to be able to have real conversations over a few hours with Mike, instead of just a quick hi, hug, and a selfie like I imagine most meet-and-greets are. (I’ll try to post about my experience meeting Marcus Butler soon.)

With Barry and Jamie at the end of the day

With Barry and Jamie at the end of the day

It was incredible to me how friendly and easy to talk to all the guys were. I feel like if I were in their shoes, I might be nervous about meeting and having to interact with so many unknown people at once. When I stepped back, it was odd but awesome to have someone who I essentially think of as a ‘celebrity’ I watch on a show interacting with me, in ‘my space’, just because I brought him there, like it was normal. In the moment, though, it felt completely natural. I guess that’s the magic of the Sorted mission though. It’s just good people coming together over good food. What does it matter if they know each other or not? Why can’t we just meet some strangers with a common interest and have a good time? It doesn’t and we can. Good people + good food = good time. Simple and delicious.