As I potter around in the kitchen this morning, making my luchi dough and stirring my pot of narkel diye cholar dal, a kaleidoscope of memories coming flooding back.
A sun-kissed sylvan morning.
A nip in the air. Dada tells me that the birds from Siberia shall soon be visiting.
The long verandah. A zebra-crossing of light and dark snatches.
A pandemonium of parrots in the gnarled guava tree in the garden.
A disciplined regiment of just-planted dahlias. The yellow and orange marigold in gorgeous bloom.
A flutter of busy butterflies. Maa tells me each one has a fancy name.
The aroma wafting from the kitchen informs me Maa is making luchi and cholar dal for breakfast.
I sit with my back to a pillar, strategically positioned, half of me in sun-blessed illumination, the other half of me in sun-starved gloom.
At any time, half the Earth is endowed with sunlight, the other half remains plunged in darkness, Maa has taught me.
I am the Earth, I tell myself.
Maa comes out with a plate of steaming hot luchis and bowls of cholar dal.
I pick up a luchi from the plate in a flash before Maa can even warn me.
It singes my fingers.
My distressed reflexes drop it to the plate.
Dada comes to my rescue. With the flamboyant panache of a superhero, he triumphantly pokes the fat belly of the luchi.
The luchi surrenders without resistance and deflates.
Ecstatic at this victory over the luchi, I forget the anguish and rush my palm over the luchi as I always do.
My palm is laced with droplets of mist. Where did that water come from ?
That is magic !!! A wide-eyed wonderstruck me confidently explains to my curious self.
Back to the vanquished luchi, I tear it with both my hands, dunk it in the cholar dal, my now-recovered fingers searching feverishly for that elusive raisin, close my eyes and relish it.
Shaken from my reverie. Back to my dal, now boiling furiously. Here’s the recipe of narkel diye cholar dal that I grew up with. I can still close my eyes, can I not, and savour its earthy taste, Maas endearing love, the halcyon November morning, the fried coconut slices and the plump dal-soaked raisins.
Narkel diye Cholar Dal (Bengali Chana Dal with Fried Coconut Slices)
- 1 cup cholar dal washed
- 1 tbsp raisins
- 2 tbsps coconut shavings
- 2 - 3 green cardamom
- 2 inch cinnamon stick
- 2 - 3 bay leaves
- 2 tsps ginger grated
- 2 - 3 green chillies slit
- 2 tsps cumin seeds
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- 2 - 3 dry whole red chillies
- 1/2 tbsp mustard oil
- 1/2 tbsp ghee
- 1 tsp sugar
- salt to taste
- Soak the dal for 5-6 hrs. Pressure cook the dal with a little salt and turmeric till just cooked, take care that the dal does not become too mushy.
- Heat a little oil in a pan and shallow fry the coconut slices/shavings till a gorgeous golden. Drain and set aside.
- Heat the ghee-oil mixture in a pot. Throw in the crushed cinnamon and cardamom. Once they release their aroma, add the bay leaf, cumin seeds and dry red chillies and allow to splutter.
- Add the grated ginger and green chillies, saute for a while and then gently pour the dal .
- Simmer the dal over low flame, occasionally stirring, for about 5-7 minutes. Add the raisins, sprinkle in the sugar and adjust the salt. (The dal is meant to have a thick consistency, you would not want it to be too thin)
- Finish with fried coconuts and serve hot with luchi or rice.