Indians cook a variety of pulses, which include dals (lentils) and beans, and are eaten almost every day as an accompaniment to steamed rice & wheat breads. Predominantly a vegetarian society, it depends largely on cereals & pulses as the main source of protein & energy. ‘Pancharatna’ means Five Jewels, and this stew used five (skinless) varieties of lentil.
This is a family favourite – simple daal cooked with drumsticks – no really. Native to India, the moringa or drumstick tree has delicate light green leaves and is widely grown all over the country. I remember the foamy cream-white flowers shrouding the tree just before the heat of summer, followed by green slender ribbed pods that emerged and grew up to 2 feet in length! Sometimes if we saw trees that were on public property, we’d create a makeshift tool with a long bamboo stick and wire at one end to break the pods which would grow in clusters from the tree. In markets, These pods were either sold loose or tied into slim bundles with banana string, and I learnt how to choose the young, tender ones just by watching my mother and mother-in-law fussing over the basket of drumsticks much to the vendors frustration! It’s packed with protein, minerals and anti-oxidants and benefits those with high blood pressure, diabetes, anaemia, ulcers and more.
A tasty and healthy mix of lentils and beans, Daal Maharani (Dal Makhani) is a recipe from North India. This is a richer, creamier daal than others (e.g. the simple Indian daal and can be eaten with naan/roti and a pickle on the side.
I love chickpeas and can eat them just plain boiled. This is a very popular North Indian style preparation from Punjab, and is usually served with deep fried bread or ‘bhature’ . I’ve had the best versions of this dish at rural dhabbas or trucker stops in the North, and still recall its spicy deliciousness balanced with the cool lassi that washed my throat every now and then.
This is one of my favourite “everyday” kind of daals. Masoor (split pink lentils) is easy to digest, and cooks faster than most other lentils. I mix in some tuvar (split yellow peas) or moong (split green or golden gram) depending on which ones are available in my pantry at the time. Don’t ignore the ghee – just a tad – that will go right on top of your steaming rice and daal before you dig in!
Fibre, iron, magnesium and more – a cup of these can provide one with half of the daily fiber requirement. Beans are often blamed for intestinal gas which is why you must use ginger liberally when cooking these beans as this recipe does. Serve with either naan or rice and a yogurt relish on the side