Lentils have been eaten by humans since Neolithic times and were one of the first domesticated crops. In the Middle East, lentil seeds have been found, dating back to more than 8000 years. In Judaism, lentils are considered to be a food for mourners because of their round shape symbolizing the circle of life. The Greek playwright Aristophanes called lentil soup the “sweetest of delicacies”. Lentils have also been found in Egyptian tombs from as far back as 2400 BC. In India, the lentil is known as dal or daal. For many centuries, lentils were considered to be “the poor man’s meat.” In Catholic countries, those who couldn’t afford fish would eat lentils during Lent instead. In the 18th century, King Louis XV’s wife, Marie Leszczynska, made lentils fashionable among royalty and they were nicknamed “the queen’s lentils”.
The Bible’s book of Genesis tells the story of Esau, who gave up his birthright for a bowl of crimson lentils and a loaf of bread. As a tasty and plentiful source of protein, lentils graced the tables of peasants and kings alike.
In India, it has been a part of everyday meals, especially in Bengali households. I have found out a very good way of combining this daal with salsa and have it as a full meal, skipping rice altogether. Because this daal cooks very fast, we don’t need to soak them in water before cooking.
- 125 gms of dal( red lentils)
- 500 ml of water
- 2 ripe small tomatoes finely chopped
- 1 fresh red chilli and 1 dry red chilli
- 1 tsp each of celery seed ( randhuni) and black mustard seed
- 1 small onion sliced
- 2 tbsp of oil
- 1/2 tsp of turmeric powder or as required
- Salt to taste.
- Wash the lentils under running tap water and put in the pressure cooker with salt, turmeric powder, tomatoes, water and fresh whole red chilli.
- Put it on high heat for one whistle and turn off the flame.
- Wait for the steam to dissipate and remove the lid.
- Stir and mix the daal well. If, by any chance, you overcooked the daal then do not stir. Instead add 100 ml of chilled water to stop further cooking.
- Put a small wok on the fire and add oil to it.
- When the oil gets smoking hot, add celery seeds, mustard seeds and a whole dried red chilli.
- As soon as they begin to splutter add onions and fry until they start to get brown at the edges.
- Carefully pour this hot spice mix to the daal and cover and cook on low for a minute.
- Serve hot .
- If the daal gets overcooked, as soon as it cools it sets like jelly.To avoid this, do not overcook.
- If we cook in a sauce pan follow all the steps as it is.The timing would also be almost the same.
- In an open pan, we can monitor the cooking and can check by squishing the dal with our fingers. If it gets squished easily it is done.