Uma Anandakrishnan of Ellicott City serves this vegetarian gravy as part of her dinner buffet. It is usually served with long-grained steamed rice. She cooks her lentils to a very soft stage in a pressure cooker to save time; it takes her 7 minutes. Curry leaves can be omitted; there is no real substitute for them. This can also be served as a soup.
Servings: 4 - 6 generous side-dish
- 1 cup toor dal (dried yellow lentils)
- 2 teaspoons vegetable or olive oil
- 4 plum tomatoes, cut into quarters
- 1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 2 to 3 jalapeño chili peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut lengthwise into quarters
- 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
- 4 to 5 curry leaves
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro, for garnish (optional)
Place the toor dal in a medium saucepan, add water to cover by 2 inches and 1 teaspoon of the oil. Cover and cook over medium-high heat for 30 to 40 minutes, stirring once or twice, or until the lentils are quite soft. (The lentils should not get too dry; add water as needed.)
In a separate medium saucepan over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, onion, jalapeno chili peppers and salt to taste. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, then reduce the heat to medium-low and add the cooked toor dal, stirring to combine. Cook for 5 to 10 minutes or until the tomatoes become quite soft and almost disintegrate. (The consistency should be almost puree-like.)
In a small skillet over medium-high heat, heat the remaining teaspoon of oil. Carefully add the mustard seeds (they may sputter on contact) and cook for 1 minute or until they stop sputtering, then add the curry leaves. Add the oil and spices to the dal mixture, stirring just to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with the chopped cilantro, if desired.
Adapted from Uma Anandakrishnan of Ellicott City.
Tested by Christina Talcott.
E-mail questions to the Food Section at firstname.lastname@example.org.