The culturally rich and colorful Rajasthan, the largest state in India has many distinctive attributes to its credit. The war-like lifestyles of its residents, the lack of green leafy vegetables, the scarcity of water, the need for food that could last for several days without having to be heated, have all had their influence on the cooking in this arid region.
One such extensively loved traditional complete meal is a set of three dishes called ‘Dal (lentils) – Baati (a form of bread) – Churma (sweet/dessert)’.
In any Indian meal, lentils form a main source of protein, therefore boasting a prominent place. A variety of lentils are incorporated in the everyday cooking. One can note variations in the cuisine and manner of cooking of lentils, every few miles in India.
This preparation is named ‘Panchmel Dal’ which literally means the blend of five different lentils. ‘Panch’ meaning ‘five’, ‘mel’ pronounced with an emphasis on the ‘e’, meaning ‘blend’.
The first occasion I prepared it, we as a family became a fan of this preparation and since have cooked it a few times, loved it every time.
1/3 cup toovar dal (split pigeon peas)
1/3 cup chana dal (split yellow peas/
1/3 cup mung dal (split dehusked green gram)
1 tablespoon urad dal (split dehusked black gram)
1 tablespoon mung bean (whole green gram)
2 tablespoons ghee (or oil)
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon cumin
2 slit green chili
1 pinch asafoetida
1-3 teaspoons red chili powder (as per tolerance)
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
2 teaspoons amchur powder (dried mango powder)
1/2 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 teaspoon tamarind puree
4 cups of water for the dal; and 3 tablespoons of water for making a spice powder mixture
salt to taste
Total Cooking Time: 45 min
Firstly, wash all the lentils with water twice and drain. adding 3 cups of water cook this in the pressure cooker. At the first whistle simmer for 10-15 minutes. turn off the heat and allow it to cool naturally. I prefer using the pressure cooker to cook the lentils always as this ensures not just quicker cooking but also lesser chances of nutrient loss.
Now, prepare the spice powder mix, by mixing 3 tablespoons of water to the spice powders taken in a bowl. Mix well to remove lumps.
Once the lentils are cooked and ready, in a pan, heat 2 tablespoons of ghee (or oil). Add cumin seeds, cloves, bay leaves, green chilies, and asafoetida. stir.
Once the cumin crackles or turns a darker shade and the green chili appears roasted on the surface, add the spice powder solution which has been prepared. Stir for 1-2 minutes.
Now add the cooked lentils, salt, tamarind puree, adding additional 1 cup of water (or more as per the consistency desired) and bring it to a boil. Simmer and cook for 5-7 minutes while stirring on and off to avoid burning.
Serve hot with Baati and Churma for a traditional complete meal OR serve with any flat bread or rice.