One would hope there would be hot filter coffee and tea available at every turn, but unfortunately, only the ‘100 mile tea’ (strong, very sweet and milky one) was available. I was on my way to a friend Hemant Gulati’s place, who lived in one of the gated community apartments in Bengaluru.
The apartments had an air of opulence and wealth, judging by their size and the high-end cars all parked neatly. Ringing the doorbell, I almost made a U-turn to go to a hotel, as I felt I would be troubling the family. They greeted me so warmly and with such love that I became a part of the family very soon, exchanging notes on food, using food as cures for illnesses, Bengaluru traffic and fashion, among other subjects. Nishi, the wife, and the children, aged 18 and 10, were adorable to say the least.
The food served on one’s table conveys a whole tale about the heritage and background of the family. At Nishi’s place, she took pride in what she put on the table and ensured her children ate everything. The magic was in keeping a balance between their favourite burger and the traditional chicken keema.
All the dishes that appeared on the table were simple recipes from traditional Rajasthani, Gujarati and Punjabi kitchens. Whether it was bhindi masaledar or the Punjabi kadhi, every dish left one incredibly satisfied and asking for more.
The highlight of my visit was a dinner at Nishi’s neighbour’s place. A healer by profession, the neighbour Renu displayed all the camaraderie which is present amongst neighbours in exchanging dishes and love. Renu’s kitchen was spick and span, revealing her orderly nature. She had created a sumptuous one pot meal called dal dhokli. It’s known by the same name in Rajasthan as well, and as varan in Maharashtra.
The story of its origin is just as interesting as the dish itself. When the romantic Rajput hero Prithviraj Chauhan, who had eloped with Samyogita, he was cornered by the Mughals. Many parts of his kingdom were under siege, blocking fresh vegetables and meats from being brought in. Legend has it that the palace cook, an old wise man, was concerned as the queen was expecting wholesome, healthy food nevertheless.
The result was purportedly dal dhokli. The cook figured that if he mixed whatever was available, it would make a complete meal which was healthy too. There were no vegetables available, so he added the leftover rotis and some herbs. The tasty one pot meal became so popular that most visiting traders and travellers adapted it to create their own versions to suit their tastes.
The dish gradually saw vegetables and greens being added, especially methi which blooms in winter. On a winter day, when one wants a bowl of warm comfort food, dal dhokli is the answer. I enjoyed it so much that I had to share the legacy of the dish with you all.
Dal Dhokli Recipe
Time: 25 minutes
Cooking time: 30 min
Calories per serving: 287
Toor dal/arhar dal: 1 cup soaked
Whole wheat flour: 2 cups
Gram flour: 1/2 cup
Salt: To taste
Turmeric powder: 1/2 tsp
Asafoetida: ½ tsp
Red chilli powder: 1 1/2 tbsp
Ginger-green chilli paste: 2 tbsp
Coriander leaves: 2 tbsp chopped
Groundnut oil: 2 tbsp
Ghee: 2 tbsp
Mustard seeds: 1 tsp
Fenugreek seeds: 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves: A handful
Dried red chillies: 2
Peanuts: 2 tbsp
Jaggery: 1 tsp grated
Onion: 3 tbsp finely chopped
Tomatoes: ½ cup chopped fine
Methi leaves: ½ cup chopped fine
Spinach: ½ cup chopped fine
Aamchur powder: ½ tsp
Cumin: 1 tsp
Cumin powder: ¼ tsp
Roasted coriander powder: ½ tsp
Fresh lemon juice: 1 tsp
Carom seeds: ¼ tsp
- Pressure cook dal with 2 cups of water, salt and turmeric. Remove from heat once done and set aside.
- Take a bowl and mix the wheat flour, gram flour, salt, turmeric, asafoetida, 1 tsp chilli powder, 1 tsp ginger-green chilli paste, 1 tsp each of chopped coriander, methi, spinach, oil and 1/2 tsp each of cumin powder, aamchur powder, carom seeds and a little ghee.
- Knead this mixture well and keep aside covered. Dough should be stiff.
- Take a non-stick pan and heat 2 tbsp ghee.
- Add mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds, curry leaves, dried red chillies, asafoetida, coriander and cumin powders. Sauté well and add the onions.
- Once the onions are cooked, add grated ginger and tomatoes. Sauté well till cooked.
- Add to the pan the remaining spinach, methi leaves, ginger-green chilli paste and cook. Also add in the peanuts.
- Once all the ingredients are cooked, add the cooked dal and simmer on low heat for 4 minutes. Add salt and chilli powder as per taste. Set aside.
- Now, take the dough and make small balls. Roll out each ball into a round chapati.
- Using a knife, cut the chapatis into small triangles or diamond shapes. You could cut broad strips too.
- Place the dal back on low fire, while stirring gently. Add in the jaggery.
- After letting the dal cook for a few more minutes, add in the cut chapatis one piece at a time so they don’t stick together.
- When all pieces are immersed in the dal, let it cook for 5 minutes.
- Add in the remaining ghee, coriander and onion on top.
- Serve hot in a big soup bowl. This can be a complete meal by itself.
- If you have added extra salt to a dish, you can remedy it by adding in mashed potatoes, which will absorb the salt, or wheat flour balls, which can be removed later
- When cooking any lentils on direct fire, keep stirring or there is a tendency for the bottom to get burnt
— Chef Ramaa Shanker is the author of ‘Festive Offerings to the Gods: Divine Soul Recipes’