Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Bhaja Moog-er Dal – Roasted Yellow Lentil Soup

“Ami Maach-Bhaat Khabo naa!!”(I will not eat Fish and Rice) shouted the little girl. She was always a terror when it came to eating meals. She did not eat Fish, Mutton or any random Vegetable you can think of. Her Mother had a terrible time trying to make her eat. All she ate was Boiled Eggs and Chicken Curry with Rice for Lunch and sometimes Rotis (Indian flat-breads) with Milk at night, her staple diet.

Not every day in a Bengali home is Chicken Curry or Boiled Eggs made, they are a fishy race and thus prepare Fish every day which the little girl will not eat, even if her Mum got angry or threatened her that she will tell her Father when  he comes back home. She was her Father’s pet and knew she will get away with these little tantrums and Babai (what she adoringly calls her Father) will not be upset with her.

Even when her entire family tried to scare her saying ‘Maach naa khele chokh kharap hoye jaabe’ (If you do not eat Fish, your eyesight will not stay put), she jumped and did a little jig and told them pointing at her 2 year older cousin who was fond of Fish and had glasses already ‘Dada toh Maach khete bhalobashe tahole or chokh ki kore kharap holo’ (He loves fish then how come he has been prescribed glasses) :P .. well, no one really had an answer to the little girl’s innocent question hence she continued with her tantrums.

One cold Winter afternoon, her Mother gave her some Bhaja Moog-er Dal (Roasted Yellow Lentil Soup) with Rice and some fritters, she had also made Chicken Curry for her little daughter which she was about to serve and found that her girl had almost finished her entire plate with the Dal and Fritters, the Mother was overjoyed, as if she has found a Magic wand to make her little girl eat. Since then whenever her Mum thought the food was not up to the mark for her daughter’s taste buds, she quickly made her some Bhaja-Moog-er Dal  & she did not have to worry any more. Her daughter at last had started to eat something.

Here is what you will need to make ‘Bhaja Moog-er Dal’:

Yellow Lentils / Moong Dal –3/4th Cup
Bay Leaf / Tej Patta – 1
Cumin Seeds – 1 tsp
Asafoetida / Hing – 1 pinch
Whole Dry Red Chillies -2
Ginger – grated – 1 tsp
Peas – a handful
Tomato – 1 – medium – chopped / puréed (I puréed it)
Green Chillies – slit - 4
Turmeric Powder – 1 tsp
Red Chilli Powder – ½ tsp
Cumin Powder – 1 tsp
Mustard Oil / Cooking Oil – 1.5 tbsp
Salt to taste
Sugar – a little more than to balance, this dal/soup is essentially Bengali and has a certain undeniable amount of sweetness.
Red Chilli flakes – to garnish.

How to make Bhaja-Moog-er Dal:

·         Heat a Tawa and dry roast the lentils till they get a very light brown hue and smells nice.

·         Remove from the Tawa, pour into a bowl and then wash thoroughly. The moment you put water on the already roasted lentils, very hot vapor would escape out of it, hence be careful while washing.
·         Once washed, put into a Pressure Cooker along with the Turmeric Powder and 1 cup of water and cook for 5 whistles (Normally Mum back in Calcutta gets this done in 2 whistles, in the Western side of India, it takes me 5 or more whistles to cook this lentil. Hence please cook for as many whistles required by your Lentil)
·         In a Pan, heat some Mustard Oil / Cooking Oil.
·         Temper with Cumin Seeds, Dry Red Chillies and Asafoetida Powder.

·         When they start to sizzle, add the grated Ginger and cook for a minute.

·         Add the Peas, cook for a couple of minutes.

·         Add the Tomato purée and cook for a couple of minutes more.

·         Add the Sugar, Cumin Powder and Red Chilli Powder and cook till the spices are not raw any more.

·         Add the already cooked Lentil into this.

·         Add desired amount of water and salt to taste and let it simmer.    

·         Once desired consistency is reached, turn off the stove.

·         I sauté the Green Chillies in a separate Pan for a minute in some hot Oil and add it to the final dish.

·         Add some Red Chilli Flakes to garnish and serve with Plain White Rice and Fritters, Maach Bhaja (Fried Fish) or with any curry, I served with Aloo Posto.

P.S : I still mention my cousin who loves to eat Fish and has glasses whenever somebody tells me that ‘love for fish’ and ‘good eyesight’ are related. The only difference is now they say ‘Maach khash naa, oi jonnei toh tor choshma hoyeche’ (You do not eat fish, so you have glasses) ;) 

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