Writer in Residence

Sustinance.

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately about what sustains us. Art, in many ways, can feed and fill us. But in a more literal sense, food has come into much greater focus these past few months. Along with being especially grateful for food security, like many folks I’ve been cooking more at home. I was trying to think of a meal that could best represent my writing practice. While there are many Goan dishes that I adore (shout out to sorpotel!), I decided on the humble and hearty dal curry. Both nourishing and tasty, no two dal curries are exactly alike. It’s a simple, yet complex meal. And while it takes time to prepare, the process is grounding, and is part of what makes the end result truly satisfying.

I got permission to share my family's dal recipe—thanks mom! Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures when I last made it, so you’ll have to use your imagination. Also, a heads up that some of the ingredients may be a bit more difficult to obtain in the current environment, but use what you have. Even with all the ingredients, mine still never tastes as good as my mom’s. As someone who used to be a pretty terrible cook, trying one's best and not getting discouraged is key :)

 

Dal Curry

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup Split red lentils (masoor call) 
  • 2 medium onions 
  • 4 tomatoes
  • 1 green chili
  • ½ inch fresh ginger
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 2 sprigs of curry leaves (curry patta)
  • 6 sprigs of cilantro
  • 1 tbsp of sambar curry powder
  • 2 tsp whole mustard seeds black
  • ¼ tsp. turmeric powder
  • Pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Salt
  • Cooking oil

 

Method:

  1. Wash lentils thoroughly (until the water is clear). Soak in a pot for 10 mins with water to cover one inch above the lentils.
  2. Add 1 tsp salt and bring to a boil. Turn the heat off and cover with a lid.
  3. Chop onions fine, split green chili lengthwise, mince garlic and ginger, and cut tomatoes into 8 wedges each. Pull curry leaves from stalk and squeeze by hand to release aroma. Discard cilantro roots, chop stems fine, and leaves coarsely.
  4. Dry roast mustard seeds in a pot. When they start to splutter, add oil.
  5. Add crushed curry leaves, ginger, garlic, and onions. Sprinkle 1/2 tsp. of salt. Saute till onions are golden. Add sambar masala, tumeric powder, and a pinch of asafoetida. Stir so it does not stick to the pan. Add the lentils and stir well. 
  6. Add sliced tomatoes, sprinkle a splash or two of Worcestershire sauce and let it come to a boil. If it's too thick, add a bit of water. 
  7. Turn off heat, sprinkle chopped cilantro cover with a lid and let cook in residual heat.
  8. Enjoy with rice or naan.

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