Life, death, vegetable dal

Mallika Basu - Life, death, vegetable dal

Posted 27th September 2007

vegetable-dal.jpgLife is full of surprises. Delicious is one of them.

A friend of a friend, she proclaimed at a weekday drinks soiree: “I love CHAT Magazine. The cover promises ‘Life, Death, Prize’. What more can I want?”

Deep sense of sarcasm and dark wit? I loved her instantly.

Three glasses of free, donkey’s-piss-posing-as-wine later I was doing my sales spiel for Quickindiancooking. And that’s when she dropped the lead ball.

She hates the smell of Indian spices. I mean, like seriously can’t stand the rich, warm and woody blend of aromas that fill the air when raw whole spices meet hot oil.

I was at a loss for words. And that RARELY EVER happens to me.

For the rest of the evening I thought long and hard about her problem. Indian food does have strong flavours and fragrances. I racked my brains for a winter, single gal (or bloke) friendly recipe that would fit the bill.

I came up with this. A thick, one-pot, oil-free dal cooked with heaps of healthy vegetables like cauliflower, carrots, beans, peas and tomatoes. Never mind the long list of ingredients. All you need to do is add them in stages and leave to cook.

It’s totally Delicious. I hope she agrees!

This recipe serves 4:

250 gm moong dal (skinless split mung beans)

3 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 inch ginger, finely chopped

1 tomato, roughly chopped

1 onion, roughly chopped

1 bay leaf

Half tsp chilli powder

Half tsp turmeric powder

Half tsp garam masala

3 cups of mixed raw vegetables, your choice from the above list

1 tbsp fresh lemon juice

12 gm fresh coriander, chopped roughly

In a large pot, wash the lentils thoroughly until the water runs clean. Fill the pot half way with clean water and bring the lentils to boil over a high flame.

In about 10 minutes, the lentils will start losing their shape and combining with the water. Now add the ginger, garlic and bay leaf. Continue cooking for 10 minutes until you can’t smell the raw ginger and garlic. The water in the pot will start drying up, add water half cup at a time when it does.

Next, chuck in the tomato, onion and all the vegetables and the turmeric and chilli powder. Keep cooking the dal on high until the vegetables are done and the tomato resembles little flecks of chilli.

By this time, the lentils will be a thick and smooth dal. To finish, stir in the lemon juice, garam masala and fresh coriander.

Eat this with a hot bowl of rice or, if you can’t be bothered, some toasted pitta bread.

23 responses to “Life, death, vegetable dal”

  1. bee says:

    i must confess, i don’t like that smell much either. your clothes reek of that smell when you come out of one of those mughlai type of restaurants. that’s why i love thai fod. it doesn’t have those pungent picy odours. the aromas are of fresh ingredeints like galangal and green chillies rather than dry powdered ones. that’s also why i like kerala cooking. it goes easy on the spices – the veggie dishes atleast.

  2. Wendy says:

    I love the smell! One of my pupils’ parents own a superb Indian restaurant which is attached to their house. She often smells of cooked spices and, mid-lesson, its all I can do not to bury my head into her hair or jacket or cheek and breathe in deeply!
    Looking forward to trying out this dhal very very much. 🙂

  3. Asha says:

    One of my hubby’s colleagues at a party asked me “How do you deal with the smell?”
    I didn’t know the clever answer but Arvind said we use neutralizer!:P
    Personally, I love to walk into a aromatic smell of spices. But it does linger on clothes,curtains and everything.What do I do? I cook on the deck on BBQ gas stove. Believe me, my neighbor hangs around in the backyard too!:D
    Love the golden dal.It’s only people who have not tasted Indian food act like that! Let her taste this!:))

  4. Suganya says:

    This is so true. Time and again I go and check my closet, sniff my clothes for the residual smell from our cooking. Having said that, I still love spices. You just have to learn to take care of other things.

  5. arundati says:

    i love the smell of spice….but not on my clothes or on me!! for sure…. its a serious repellent!! dal looks great…comfort food… try day with buttered toast… die for!! first time here and really liked what i saw on the blog!! cheers!!

  6. Padmaja says:

    I love the smell of spices but at home in the kitchen but hate absolutely if people have that indian curry smell around, i hated to tell a friend who used to cook all afternoon and come and pick her kid from the school and iIcan see so many weird looks at her as she used to smell like a walking curry.
    How can you say it if u think she is a friend?I used to dread that whole episode?you know what I mean don’t u mallika?

  7. Padmaja says:

    forgot to include this in my previous comment, hey whats happening to u’r little sis movie??
    when will be out? did i miss something on that front?

  8. sandeepa says:

    I love the smell of spices, yes it tends to hang around if you don’t have the windows open. The stale smell I don’t like I admit but but the fresh smell…..ahhhhhhhhh

    Ok I do not like the fired french fries and burger smell when you walk into a burger place unless I am really hungry 🙂 I am also not very fond of BBQ smell though I like the finished product

  9. TBC says:

    I love the smell of spices but I can understand how most peple might find them too strong & overpowering. My husband has stopped taking Indian food for lunch now for the very same reason.
    I cannot stand the smell of meat cooking (maybe coz we’re vegetarians). Sometimes when our neighbors make stuff like that I don’t know whether to open my windows to let the smell out or keep it closed to prevent some more from wafting my way:-(

    That’s a very nice & simple dal.

  10. TBC says:

    that should have been ” people”… I don’t like wordpress… doesn’t allow comment deletion if something’s wrong 🙁

  11. Ashwin says:

    After this dal, I am hungry for Sambar (with Idli and dosa, of course)! Any suggestions for how to make sambar?

  12. Manik says:

    Hi Mallika,
    I am totally amazed at all this……. i am very new to blogging concept(which era i am living in, right?) ok i admit not that new bcos i tried my hand at it and managed only the intial 1st thought……..after that i gave up….
    how you get time to write (soooo wonderful that too) and to organise, develop and manage ur blog and all that it takes…… padmaja, asha and all other ladies…..hats off to you all……..truly inspirational….
    i am bearly able to manage my husband, my house and kids…..

  13. Planethalder says:

    I’ve lost count how many of your recipes I’ve starred in my Google Reader account. This I must make asap – so simple, so clean, yet so perfect for cold nights too.

  14. Diane says:

    I love the smell of spices while cooking – that sizzle of the tarka, the blooming of the spices – but must admit I don’t care for the stale smell in the house later in the day. It’s a dilemma. Still, it beats out the one and only time I made beef broth any day! I don’t eat much meat anyhow (mostly veg and a little seafood), but I once got all many-step-gourmet and made a beef broth for a pot-de-feu once. Blecch. It made the house smell awful, and it lingered forever it seemed. Never again. Ick.

  15. Shilpa says:

    I hope she agrees this is one delicious dal! It doesn’t seem to contain too many “stinky” spices (they don’t stink to me) that stay on clothes! 🙂

  16. Glad someone else said it, blush, I cringe at my friends curry cook offs. I eat before I go and watch what I eat b/c my G.I. gurgles for 3 days afterwards. It must be an acquired taste that I have yet to acquire. Whew!

  17. The picture really looks very cute. I really feel like tasting the item.

  18. Isabel says:


    Having said all this, does anyone have a solution?
    I hate having to wash my hair so often, just to get rid of the spice smells! Even chappaties are bad in this regard- the smell thats left behind is awful, especially in your hair!


  19. Mallika says:

    Hi Isabel

    I couldn’t agree more. My personal tricl is to wear a shower cap when cooking, keep the kitchen door shut and leave the windows wide open. It tends to do the trick. Read more at a post I wrote earlier:


  20. […] 5-10 ingredients that add up to an Indian recipe are a far cry from all this. So they smell. Are well fiddly. And require some planning. But boy do they make up for working day misery as well […]

  21. bob says:

    Who cares about the smell? the food is great!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  22. nalini says:

    Wonder if the pressure cooker could be used to make
    this faster-or is the stage wise slow boil essential?
    always hungrier than there is time..

  23. fantastic post, very informative. I wonder why the other experts of this sector don’t notice this. You must continue your writing. I am sure, you have a huge readers’ base already!

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