After moving to the US a few years back and developing a love for food and several cuisines, I realized something about Indian food. I realized that the first thing that comes to mind when one thinks about Indian food is curry. It is perceived as a mostly spicy and complex cuisine when in reality there’s way more to it than just curry.
So when I got a chance to share what I know about Indian food here at WFAEats I thought of starting with something basic and something that every Indian household makes almost every day in their kitchen and also something that everyone can make in their kitchen irrespective of whether they are familiar with Indian spices or not. So I decided to make Tadka Tomato Dal with Green Tomato and Cilantro Chutney. It is a staple in North Indian homes and is very easy to put together.
Tadka Tomato Dal
I love any kind of dal (lentils) mostly because I love how something so simple and straightforward gives such burst of flavors. For this recipe I added all kinds of tomatoes I could find at the farmers’ market and added it to yellow lentils. When is was cooked I was amazed at how dal was packed with the taste of tomatoes.
Chop all the tomatoes and mix them with the lentils. Add water (four times the quantity of lentils), salt, and turmeric. Cook.
When the lentils are finished cooking begin making the tadka. Tadka, also called chaunk or baghar in Hindi, is nothing more than tempering. A few spices and some flavorings are fried in a small amount of oil or clarified butter (ghee in Hindi) and then added to the main dish, which in this case is tomato dal.
IngredientsFor lentils 1 cup tuar dal (yellow lentils) 3 cups sliced tomatoes (I used all kinds that i could get my hands on – green, red, yellow. You can use whatever you have at home) 4 cups water 1 1/2 tsp turmeric Salt to taste
For tadka 2 TBS oil or clarified butter (ghee) 1/4 tsp asafoetida 1 TBS black mustard seeds 1 tsp cumin seeds 2 TBS curry leaves , chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 4-5 cherry tomatoes, sliced into halves 1 tsp cayenne pepper
Method Wash lentils thoroughly until the water runs clear. Add cleaned lentils, tomatoes, salt, and turmeric along with 4 cups of water to a pot and place on high heat (if you are using a pressure cooker, place on medium heat). Once the water starts to boil, turn the heat to medium low, cover, and let simmer. After lentils are cooked well, turn off the heat and make the tadka. You’ll need a small frying pan for making tadka. Heat oil/ghee in the pan. Add asefotida. When it starts tempering, add mustard and cumin seeds. It will start popping if the oil is hot enough and then add the garlic. Let it brown. Add sliced tomatoes. Cook them for about 4-5 minutes and add the cayenne pepper just before the tomatoes start to melt. Turn off the heat immediately and add the tadka to the hot lentils. Mix well.
Green Tomato and Cilantro Chutney
This chutney was one of those rare things that everyone in our family loved and so my mom used to make it almost every day throughout the summer (and also sometimes in the winter, but the most flavorful and fresh tomatoes are available during the summer in India). Green tomatoes have a slight sour and tangy taste which makes this chutney worth every bite. If you can’t find green tomatoes, you can use red ones. If your tomatoes aren’t sour/tangy enough, just add a little bit of lemon or lime juice.Ingredients 2 cups of cilantro 1 cup tomatoes 2-3 green chilies or jalapenos (seed them if you don’t want the chutney to be very hot) 2-3 cloves of garlic 1 TBS lemon/lime juice, optional 1 tsp cumin seeds Salt to taste
Method There’s no method to it. Just throw it all in a blender, add a little water for the blades to move and make a runny sauce.