Bengalis love their dal. A lunch is never quite complete without a good hearty dal, typically masoor (red lentils) or moong (yellow lentils), accompanied by fried papad (yes, we rarely have it roasted) and a generous squeeze of lemon.
Red lentils are cooked in a myriad of ways. Usually non-elaborate and beguilingly simple. The fundamentals are always quite the same – pressure cook the soaked dal with a touch of turmeric, a sprinkle of salt and the heat of couple of fiery green chillies.
In its earthy incarnation, you just mash the pressure cooked dal and serve it with a dollop of ghee or a drizzle of mustard oil, spiked with green chillies and maybe a chopped red onion. Or you could temper the dal and the options are endless. Just a caress of whole cumin seeds. Or a punch of paanchforon. Or onions, chopped fine and fried to a gorgeous golden brown.
Here I cook the red lentils with vegetables, a kiss of cumin and coriander and the fire of chillies, inspired by the delectable Middle Eastern red lentil stew, again a family favorite of ours.