Thursday, March 13, 2014

Basic Instinct

Given all the talk around food porn I thought a header like " Basic Instinct" was sure to grab eyeballs. While the post has to do with a primal need namely food and that too comfort food the attempt has been to amplify/dramatize. And isn't that what a lot of food writing/recipes are about- give it an unusual name, a twist here- a turn there and a you have a brand new avatar. Many a times these do help create interest in long forgotten or lesser know dishes. And in sharp contrast the recipe that I discuss below is a far cry from any such frills. Its strength and appeal lies in its simplicity. The kind of food that you reach out to when you are looking for warmth and nourishment from within. Dishes that use a minimum of ingredients and spices but yet taste fabulous. One bite and you are filled with nostalgia. You immediately( at least in your head) start to reminisce about Mom/Grand mom's cooking and happy, carefree times. Coming back in the good old days to that familiar aroma and knowing in your heart that 'all was well.'  

Dalma is staple in Odia households. Roti and dalma for dinner is possibly the most common menu you would come across and this cuts across socio economic classes. It is really easy to prepare, in three quick steps- boil daal, add vegetables and then the tempering. You are done. Retains an earthy flavour and tastes delicious. 

Dalma(Yellow lentil cooked with vegetables)

Serves 6, Cooking time: 30 minutes


Arhar daal/toor daal)- 1 cup
Turmeric powder- 1/2 tsp
Ginger- 1/2 an inch- pounded
Mixed vegetables(you could use your own combination of vegetables but a mix of starchy and green ones work best- any four from the ones mentioned below)- chop all vegetables the same size.
         Potatoes- 2, quartered(large chunks)
         Brinjal- 1 large, cut into large pieces
         Parwal- 3/4 halved
         Pumpkin- Half a slice( about 1/2 cup when cubed)
         Broad beans- 2/3, chopped into large pieces
         Colocasia- 2, halved
         Green banana- remove skin and chop
Grated coconut- 1/2 tbsp.
Ghee: 1 tbsp.
Whole cumin(Jeera) - 1 tsp
Red chillies- 2/3
Roasted cumin and red chilli powder- 2 tsp( dry roast cumin and red chillies separately and coarsely grind them together. Store in an airtight jar and use as required- 2 tbsp of cumin with 3/4 red chillies)
Salt to taste


  • Pressure cook the daal with 3/4 cups of water, salt and turmeric. You must end up with a fairly runny consistency.
  • Transfer the cooked daal to a large kadai/wok. Bring the daal to boil. Add the ginger, vegetables - one by one starting with potatoes then followed by the others.
  • Cover and cook for a while on low heat and then open and cook.There could be some scum on top, ladle it out.
  • Once the vegetables are done, separately prepare the tempering/tadka. Heat the ghee, add the whole cumin seeds, once they sputter add the red chillies and sauté for a minute or two. Add this to the daal vegetable mix.
  • Top with the grated coconut and the roasted cumin/chilli powder.
  • Serve hot with plain steamed rice or hot chappatis.
  • Enjoy.
There are modern day variations of Dalma with onions( one could sauté some onions in ghee and then add the pressure cooked daal to it) and tomatoes( add it with the other vegetables). But I love it in its purest satwik form. It also make for a complete meal and tops my list of one dish healthy meals. Best had freshly prepared and the taste lingers in your mind for hours afterwards.
Bon Apetit and Happy Cooking!

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