Today I have a recipe with the most used lentil at home, the split pigeon peas / ṭoor dal. As a Tamilian, we use this in many dishes including rasam and sambhar, without which it is tough for us to survive. Parupu usili ( lentil scrambled) is always a part of any celebration menu, be it a wedding or new year.
The key consideration for this dish, according to me, is the balance between the vegetable and the lentil. In weddings, the lentil is almost double the quantity of the vegetable, probably to save costs and adjust for large number of people. That is something I do to manage unexpected guests. But an ideal combination for me is the lentil is little less than 1/2 of the vegetable by weight. It ensures that the flavours of both mingle well and neither dominates the other.
Another consideration is the oil required for cooking the lentils. I agree it is on the higher side but that compensates by being absolutely delicious. I have tried steaming the lentils instead of frying and it does turn out ok. It uses lesser oil and needs almost zero involvement from you. But once you are used to the frying, it is hard to settle for the steamed version.
This was one of the first dishes my mother-in-law taught me and also one of the first I perfected earning her admiration.
Protein – Toor dal / split pigeon peas
Recipe from my mother-in-law with some modifications by me
WHAT WE NEED
French beans 250 gms
Ṭoor dal / split pigeon peas 1/2 cup heaped / 120 gms
Dried red chillies 2-3
Oil 3-5 tbsp
Mustard seeds 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves 1 sprig
WHAT TO DO
- Soak the ṭoor dal and dried red chillies in 2 cups of water for 3 hours. If you are in a hurry, soak them in boiling hot water for 20 minutes
- Cut the beans into 1/2 inch long pieces
- Heat 1 tsp oil in a pan and add mustard seeds
- Once the seeds splutter, tear and add the curry leaves
- Then add the beans, salt (required for the beans) and 1/2 cup water
- Cover and cook till it is done. Add additional water if needed
- Ensure that the entire water is used up in cooking the beans and no part of it is left with the beans. If so, then the end result will be soggy and blob like with the lentils. If the water added to the beans is in excess, then drain it out and cook. Set aside
- Drain the water from the ṭoor dal and chillies add them to a blender. If you have soaked it ib hot water you need to wait for 10 minutes for the dal to slightly cool down
- Add salt and grind to a coarse paste. You may probably only need to pulse it a few times else it becomes a very smooth paste and that is not what we want
- Heat 2 tbsp oil in a pan and add the ground lentil paste. You can use the same pan which cooked the beans but I usually wipe it down with a tissue / cloth before cooking the lentils. If it is your first time, a non stick pan is recommended since it would be easier to work with
- With a steel / wooden spatula, break up the paste across the pan and let it cook in the oil
- Break it up frequently and stir to cook.
- If you see it getting dry but yet uncooked, add another tbsp of oil and continue to break up the paste and stir
- The final result, after around 10-12 minutes, should be near sand like texture, well cooked, dry but not too dry and not very oily
- Mix the lentils with the beans and simmer for 2-3 minutes for the beans to slightly warm up
- Serve with rasam and rice