Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Wheat Berry Bhel



India has this whole culture of chaat that is hard to explain to anyone outside. After all, chaat's not a meal in itself. It's not even a tea time dish or an appetizer. It just is a category of food by itself - eaten by the roadside, or at local restaurants, eaten when mood or opportunity strikes rather than at lunch or dinner. Chaat varies considerably across the country. In most of North India, crispy fried stuff is laced with spicy tamarind chutney and loads of yogurt. Fried potatoes count as chaat in Delhi, doused with tangy spices. But in Bombay, it changes its form again. There are still fried flour puris and papdis, but everything gets a generous sprinkle of fried gramflour vermicelli called sev and yogurt only makes an appearance in some specific varieties, not everything.

One chaat that is native to Mumbai is the bhelpuri. It starts with puffed rice (the same as rice krispies) and then gets loaded with fried sev, potatoes, onions, tomatoes and all sorts of chutneys and masalas. One of the most delicious mish-mash dishes you can find anywhere I think. But bhelpuri disintegrates soon, the puffed rice getting soggy within minutes of making the dish so I have often wondered if you can make the bhel with a sturdier base. It turns out you can. My version, made with roasted wheatberries is more toothy than the regular bhel but no less delicious. It also packs in so much fibre and because I left out the fried sev, you can even count this one as health food.

A typical bhel recipe calls for two chutneys - the sweet tamarind chutney that you can buy in a bottle and a green chutney, typically made from cilantro, that I recommend you make fresh. Once you have the chutneys and some boiled potatoes, it's just a question of mixing everything up.

Ingredients
1 cup roasted, salted wheatberries
1 potato, boiled and chopped into small cubes
1 onion, chopped finely
2 tbsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
2 tbsp green chutney (see recipe here)
2 tbsp tamarind chutney (look for bottled date tamarind chutney)
1 tsp chaat masala
1 tsp roasted and ground cumin seeds
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
Salt, just in case

In a bowl, mix together wheatberries, potato, onion and half the coriander. Add chaat masala, cumin powder, chilli powder and 1 tbsp each of both chutneys. Taste and add more chutneys, spices or salt if you need it. Top with the reserved chopped coriander to serve.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Pancakes, S'mores, Birthdays



Eight years ago on this day, I baked my first cookie, a chocolate spiral shortbread. I placed the plate of cookies on my sofa, clicked a shaky picture with my point and shoot Nikon and wrote about it on this newfangled thing called blogspot. Bombay Foodie was born.

To celebrate eight years of this delicious journey, I wanted to create a dish that I could not have made this time in 2008. Not only was this dish beyond my technical capabilities at the time, it was something I could not even have imagined. Naturally, I made s'mores pancakes.

The pancake recipe comes from the 'Genius Recipes' section of Food52. The genius part of the recipe is that egg whites are stirred in at the end, making a batter that gives the fluffiest pancakes. On top of my tiny pancake, I added a touch of molecular gastronomy with chocolate soil. As the chocolate started to melt on the warm pancake, I added the final flourish - a coconut marshmallow. At this point, you bring out the torch and toast the marshmallow. Not too much though, because you don't want to burn the coconut. The whole thing is small enough to be picked up and eaten in two bites.

If you are still reading this, dear reader, thank you for being a part of this journey! And Happy Birthday, Bombay Foodie! Here's to many more years.

Ingredients
For Pancakes
1 1/4 cup flour
1 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 egg, separated
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup milk
40 grams salted butter, melted and cooled
1 tsp vanilla essence

For marshmallows
1/2 cup sugar
3 sheets gelatin
1 tbsp glucose
1/4 cup + 1 tbsp water
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

For chocolate soil
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup caster sugar
80 grams dark chocolate (I used Callebaut 72%)
1 tbsp cocoa nibs (optional)

You can make the marshmallows and the chocolate soil upto a week in advance.

For marshmallows, pour coconut in a non stick pan and cook on a low heat, stirring constantly, until toasted. Line a small baking sheet with parchment and spread coconut all over. Mix sugar, 1/4 cup water and glucose in a saucepan and put on a medium heat. Stir until the sugar is melted, then put a thermometer in and leave the pan alone until it hits 240C.

While the sugar is boiling, soak gelatin sheets in plenty of cold water. Wring out 5 minutes later, put in a small pan with 1 tbsp water and heat until melted. Put into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar once it reaches 240C and start the mixer on a low speed. Increase the speed gradually and whip until the mixture is fluffy and about three times the original volume. Add vanilla and give it a few seconds to get mixed in. Take two lightly oiled spoons and drop spoonfuls of marshmallows over the coconut. The mixture will be very sticky so be patient. Once all the marshmallows are spread on the sheet, leave it aside for 4-6 hours to dry. Once dry, flip the marshmallows to coat the top with more coconut and store in a airtight jar (not in the fridge).

For chocolate soil, chop the chocolate into tiny pieces. Combine water and sugar in a non stick frying pan. Put on a medium heat. Stir for the first minute until the sugar dissolves, then leave the boiling syrup on its own until you start to see the start of the caramel color on the edges of the pan. This can take a few minutes so be patient and stay close to the pan. As soon as the sugar starts to color, turn off the heat and add all the chocolate. Keep stirring - at first the chocolate will melt and it will all be one pool of liquid chocolate. But as the mixture cools, it will turn into soil-like crystallised chocolate. Let cool completely and then, if you can find them, add cocoa nibs for some extra crunch. Again, store in an airtight container but preferably not in the fridge.

When you are ready to eat pancakes, make the batter. In a bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking powder and baking soda. In a second bowl, whisk together buttermilk, milk, egg yolk and vanilla essence. Add melted butter and mix. Pour over the dry ingredients and whisk until just combined. Finally, add the egg white and stir until it mixes in with the batter. Set aside for 5 minutes.

Heat a non stick pan and brush with melted butter. Drop spoonfuls of batter. Wait a couple of minutes for the pancakes to brown, then flip and cook the other side. Top each pancake with a layer of chocolate soil and a marshmallow. Toast marshmallows lightly with a kitchen torch just before serving.

Monday, February 1, 2016

A Bowl of Kulith



Every January, Mumbai hosts an exhibition called 'Mahalaxmi Saras' that brings together aritsans from around the country. The biggest draw at this exhibition are the farmers, producers and women from self help groups from remote parts of Mahrashtra. They come bearing homegrown cashews and kokum and lovingly made papads, chunteys and syrups. There is also a food court where stalls sell curries rarely seen outside rural homes, accompanied by wafer thin rice crepes or bhakris (the traditional millet flatbreads) made fresh over clay griddles. Between the packaged food sellers and the food court, Mahalaxmi Saras is a journey through rural Maharashtra. Every year, I come back surprised with how varied the local cuisine is and how much I am still to learn.

I made three trips this year and came back with bags full of purchases each time. The sellers are all super enthusiastic which means that when I stopped to pick up cashews being sold directly by this farm owner from Ratnagiri, he convinced me to buy something called 'kulith peeth'. I had no idea what they muddy brown flour was supposed to do but a grinning lady handed me a card and told me to call her if I needed the recipe. Now who can resist that offer!

Back home, my research promptly told me that kulith is a lesser known lentil - the horsegram and the flour that I was now holding is used in Maharashtrian cuisine to make pithla, a savoury porridge like sludge that is eaten with millet flatbreads. Because pithla is traditionally made with gramflour, I decided to substitute gramflour with kulith flour in my beloved dish - kadhi.

The resultant yogurt and lentil soup had the same consistency as the regular kadhi but kulith gives it a more hearty, earthier flavour. I served my kulith kadhi like a soup, topped with fried onions and a spray of dried mint but it will be equally good served over plain steamed rice. Here goes the recipe:

Ingredients
2 tbsp. kulith flour
3 tbsp. yogurt
1/2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp mustard seeds
5-6 curry leaves
1 tbsp. ginger garlic paste
1 small onion, chopped finely
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp red chilli powder
1 tsp amchur
1/2 tsp garam masala
To garnish
2 tbsp. fried onions
1 tsp dried mint (or a handful of fresh mint leaves)
1 lime

Whisk together the kulith flour and the yogurt. Add 4 cups of water to make a thin blend, whisking to make sure the flour and yogurt are well blended and there are no lumps. In a pan large enough to hold the mixture, heat olive oil. Add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and curry leaves. Wait until the seeds start to splutter, then add the chopped onions and the ginger garlic paste. Stir on a low heat until the onions are a golden brown. Add the kulith-yogurt mixture and all the remaining spices. Stir well to mix. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and let simmer for 15-20 minutes or until the soup is well blended and thickened to the consistency of, say, a cheese sauce.

Serve hot with rice, garnished with fried onions, mint and a dash of lime juice.

Monday, January 4, 2016

The 2016 Wishlist

One flip side of following a bunch of foodies on twitter and instagram is that I end up with a long list of places I want to go to and more importantly, dishes I want to try. A lot of these are from far flung places that I know I won't get to any time soon. But for the start of the new year, I present to you the top 10 dishes I want to try this year in Mumbai. Some of these are from age old restaurants that I just haven't somehow managed to get to. And others are from the new menus or the new launches. So here's the roadmap to a food filled 2016:

1. Delhi Chaat at Ziya: I dined at Vineet Bhatia's modern Indian restaurant at the Oberoi when they first opened and was frankly underwhelmed. But they have gone through multiple rounds of menu change since and some of dishes on the new menu, particularly the Delhi Chaat, look super tempting.

2. Guava Tana-tan at the Bombay Canteen: I think we all agree that Bombay Canteen was the biggest opening of 2015. I've been there many times but I didn't get to taste their take on tarte tatin - a guava puff pastry dessert - before they took it off the menu. Hopefully it comes back this year!

3. Missal Pao at Aaswad: This traditional Maharashtrian restaurant has been around forever but last year, their missal pao got voted the best dish in the world. You just have to try that one then, don't you.

4. Thali at Shree Thaker Bhojanalay: The most legendary of thali places in the city is set in the middle of crowded Kalbadevi market. Now, I usually avoid Gujarati thali places because all dishes in there - even the main courses - tend to be sweet. But I have it on good authority that Thaker serves a non-sweet version of both the dal and the kadhi.

5. Ashok Vada Pao: I must be living under a rock because I never heard of this vada pao stall near Dadar's Kirti College until recently. Ashok's claim to fame is that they add besan chura (crispy fried bits) to the bun in addition to the potato vada. That has to be good.

6. Sakura Peach at Wasabi: From the cheapest dish in the city to the most expensive restaurant around. I don't see myself dining at Wasabi anytime soon but I'm surely going there to get this dessert made of peaches and champagne ice cream.

7. The Seven Layer Cookie at The Nutcracker: If you have read any part of my blog, you know I have a massive sweet tooth. Which is why I've been eyeing this 7-layer cookie bar for a while now.

8. The Big Bang Theory at Joss: I put Joss on my 2015 list as well but not being a big fan of Asian cuisine, I didn't make it there. Still, one dish stays in my head from all the reviews I have read - a chocolate dessert created right on your table. So Joss goes back on the list for this year.

9. Mac and Cheese Pizza at Fat Man's Café: If you are a carbaholic like me, it's hard to get past your two favourite carbs in one dish. This is the kind of food designed to give you a heart attack but you only live once, right?

10. Whatever they sell at NRI: Atul Kocchar's Indian restaurant is set to open this month and the food is supposed to be inspired by the iconic dishes Indians came up with when they moved abroad. Like Chicken Tikka Masala or Bunny Chow. Can't wait to try this one!

Friday, January 1, 2016

Something old, something new


It's the most refreshing of days; the beginning of a year when everything seems just a bit more possible. I firmly believe that you should start each new year with a gorgeous dessert. And this is one dessert that is only possible in Mumbai, where strawberries show up in winter rather than summer. A combination of the wintery gingerbread with balsamic strawberries, everything blanketed in a white chocolate sauce and capped with a candied ginger slice. This is a trifle that gives trifles a good name.

I made my gingerbread for Christmas. The recipe, which originally came from Smitten Kitchen, is the one I have used for two years running and it never disappoints. The gingerbread cake is non-fussy and good to have around the snacking during the holiday season. It also freezes remarkably well; in fact, I made mine about 10 days back and put part of it in the freezer. So if you already have gingerbread, you need to make your strawberries and white chocolate ganache 3-4 hours in advance, let everything chill and assemble just before serving. If you don't end up eating the triffle immediately, it actually improves with a few hours in the fridge. I made mine in a jar so I put a lid on and packed it for work.

Ingredients
Half the gingerbread cake made with this recipe
1 cup strawberries, washed, hulled and quartered
2 tbsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
200 grams white chocolate, chopped
1 cup cream (heavy cream is best but I used Amul 25%)
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
candied ginger slices to garnish

In a bowl, mix together strawberries, sugar, vanilla extract and balsamic vinegar. Heat the cream until it is simmering. Turn off the heat, add the chocolate and nutmeg and stir until the chocolate is melted and you have a smooth chocolate ganache. Chill both the strawberries and the ganache in the fridge for 3-4 hours. If you are making gingerbread cake now, also cool it completely.

Cut gingerbread cake into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes. In a glass or a jar, add a layer of gingerbread. Spoon over the strawberries and then add a layer of white chocolate ganache. Repeat the layers and top with a slice of candied ginger.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Jingle All The Way

Christmas is my favourite time of the year. And looks like a lot of people concur because Bombay seems decked out in the best of trees and lights at this time of the year. At the start of December, I asked all of you to send me your favourite Christmas pictures from around the city. And what a visual treat it has been, to see such gorgeous trees and Christmas set ups.

From all the entries I received, I present to you my top 10 picks. There are some trees plus some other fun things folks came up with this year. Trees first:

1. The star studded tree at Inorbit Mall



2. My favourite of the lot - white Christmas at Trident in BKC



3. The wooden tree at Taj Mahal Tea House in Bandra



4. The wine bottle tree at Sofitel in BKC



5. The tree that travelled the furthest - all the way from Four Points Sheraton in Vashi



And now on to other cute Christmassy things:

6. Elf's house at Oberoi Mall



7. Santa's sleigh at Pheonix Market City in Kurla



8. Hamley's London themed snow globe at Phoenix Mills



9. The cutest life sized gingerbread house at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar



10. The best for the last, the most famous Christmas window in Bombay at Damian in Bandra sports Alice's tea party and other fairy tales




Now for a bonus entry. This home tree from Dipika just because it's so cute.





And finally, the prizes. The best entries came from Huban Kasimi, Dipika and Aniketh Dsouza. The three of them win a goodie bag that I am going to bake come this weekend!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Sugarcraft at Home: Marzipan Apples



I was a bit scared when I asked Zeba for a recipe. If there is one thing I haven't managed to learn in years of dessert making, it's tempering chocolate. And I was pretty sure that whatever recipe this chocolatier sends me, it will have me pulling out double boilers and thermometers. In the end, I did temper chocolate and it was easier than I thought it will be. The resulting candy was also super delicious and totally worth it.

This being December, Zeba shared with me her Christmas recipe for marzipan bonbons. What she does is pour tempered chocolate in the mould to create a shell, fills it with home made marzipan and tops it with more chocolate. I decided to play around with the recipe a bit and created these marzipan apples instead. I must admit I am not a fan of marzipan. Commercial marzipan must be blamed here because it is overly sweet and lacks any kind of texture. But Zeba's marzipan isn't too sweet and by rolling my chocolate dipped marzipan apples in pink hued coconut, I'm adding a layer of texture and another flavour that balances out the sweetness. I also divided Zeba's recipe by a fourth so this one makes about 20 marzipan apples.

Ingredients125 grams roasted and ground almonds
63 grams caster sugar
12 grams liquid glucose
1/4 cup water
300 grams dark chocolate (I use Callebaut 70%)
1/2 cup desiccated coconut
2-3 drops red gel color

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, mix ground almonds, sugar, liquid glucose and water. Put on a slow heat and cook, stirring frequently, until the mixture is quite thick. Let cool. Lightly grease silicon moulds (apple or another shape). Press the marzipan into the moulds and chill in the fridge for 10 minutes. Take the marzipan out of the molds, arrange in a single layer in a parchment lined tray and let chill in the fridge for half an hour.

In the meantime, make colored coconut. Put desiccated coconut in a bowl and add 2-3 drops of gel color. Mix with a fork until the coconut absorbs the color and is uniformly pink. If you want your apples to be rose red, add more color.

Now temper your chocolate. Heat 1-2 inches of water in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Pop another bowl on top of the saucepan of simmering water, making sure it doesn't touch the water. I get my chocolate in small chips but chop yours finely if you have bars. This recipe doesn't need all 300 grams of chocolate but it is hard to temper anything less than that. Reserve 60 grams of chocolate and put the rest in the bowl of your makeshift double boiler. Stir until the chocolate melts completely. You are looking for the chocolate to get to about 120F. Take the bowl off the heat, making sure to wipe the condensation at its base. Add the remaining chocolate and stir until the temperature reduces to 82F. Put the chocolate back on top of simmering water and heat back to 90-91F. Your chocolate is now in temper.

One by one, put the marzipan apples on a fork and dip in tempered chocolate. Shake to remove excess chocolate and drop into the bowl of coconut to coat. Remove to a parchment lined baking sheet. Once all the apples are dipped, pop the baking sheet into the freezer for 15 minutes for the chocolate to set.

You will be left with some tempered chocolate. Just pour it into moulds to create solid chocolates or wait until the next post to find out what I did with mine.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Sugarcrafter: Zeba Kohli



Zeba Kohli did not head home like other children did after school. She went instead to her grandfather's chocolate shop in Marine Lines. As her grandfather and her mother went about their business of making and selling chocolates from the first 'Fantasie Chocolate', she sat in the office and finished her homework. Maybe she didn't want to become a chocolatier at first - she mentions that she studied Physics. But it was at an early age that Zeba took over the reins of the family business and not much later that she became a chocolatier extraordinaire, creating sweet treats that are synonymous with artisan chocolate in Mumbai.

The transition could not have been easy. After all, Zeba was not trained as a chef. But her inquisitive nature kicked in when she joined the business and she added to all the chocolate knowledge she had absorbed from her family by going to training courses around the world. "My grandfather will call one of his pastry chef friends in France and I will go intern with them for a month", she recalls. Well trained and back in India, Zeba also had to learn finance and accounting and everything else that goes into running a business. "I believe in doing everything well" says Zeba and she really did well as she upgraded her chocolate factory and expanded the franchise to what are now six shops scattered all over Mumbai.

When I go to meet Zeba at the original Marine Lines store her grandfather first opened in 1946, her energy and passion is palpable. Even as we are talking about her life story, she keeps a lookout for any customer who needs a suggestion or little bits out of place that her staff needs to know about. Treating her staff like family is another thing Zeba learned from her grandfather. No wonder then that she bucks the industry trend of high employee turnover - her store manager tells me he's been there for more than a decade.

Fantasie sells the most chocolate during Diwali - I get their almond clusters as gift pretty much every year - and they are just gearing up for the next rush over Christmas and New Year as I visit. Zeba tells me that milk chocolate and almond clusters (or anything with nuts really) continue to remain her bestsellers. That hasn't stopped Zeba from experimenting though. She was a brand ambassador for Barry Callebaut and a judge for the World Chocolate Masters Championship for many years running. At her store, Zeba offers everything from 100% chocolate to unique flavours like wasabi for some of her discerning, well travelled customers. I also spot a chocolate game she has created for kids, while a video shows super creative chocolate projects Zeba has done over the years.

I always ask sugarcrafters if they tire of all the sweets around them. But Zeba, I don't have to ask. As she offers me a taste of her 100% chocolate sweetened only by date slivers, she pops in a couple herself, clearly enjoying the experience. We try her christmas special of chocolate dipped candied orange peel together and then move on to macarons and cookies Zeba has recently added to the menu. I ask her if the bakery is a new addition and she corrects me, telling about the bakery her grandfather ran at the same place the Marine Lines store is at now, and the macaroons he used to make. I don't think Zeba could have found a better way to continue his legacy.

So now that Zeba has met her goals of building a better manufacturing plant and more outlets for her chocolate brand, what's next for Fantasie? Zeba tells me how much she loves teaching and while she no longer mentors the contestants for world chocolate championship, a chocolate academy is very much on the cards. She's already been doing chocolate pairings and gazillion of workshops at Starbucks and Kala Ghoda Festival and what not but soon you might be able to learn chocolate making from her at her Marine Lines store or her Andheri chocolate factory.

I wonder what Zeba's favourite chocolate is, but she refuses to pick one, showing equal affection for the bitter dark and the sweet white chocolate. It must be hard to pick when you are surrounded by such beautiful creations. The ones I'm leaving you with are the specials she's made for christmas this year. Did Zeba share one of these Christmas recipes for me to make at home? Just wait until next post to find out.





Sunday, December 6, 2015

The Year of the Bao



I will start with a confession. Up until about two years back, I had no clue what a bao is. Yes, I had heard of folks raving about the pork belly bao at The Table but I had it filed away as something steamed and meaty that doesn't really concern me. Then Cafe Nemo opened and a little over a year back, I had my first taste of their tofu and mushroom baos.

Since then, it looks to me that everyone is putting a bao or two on the menu. The Fatty Bao opened earlier this year with a menu that left everyone raving about pork bellies. And The Bao Haus followed a few months later, doing a 'delivery only' business. But not all baos are created equal. There is monkey bar doing a paneer bhurji steamed bun, and Social calls its pita sandwiches 'pita baos' to cash in on the excitement. It can get pretty confusing.

If you are a vegetarian and a bao newbie like me, look no further. I have checked out all the baos and pseudo-baos in town, skipped over the pork bellied ones and picked the top three veggie baos for you to feast on.

The Fatty Bao: With layers of fillings and sauces that offer textural and flavour contrasts, The Fatty Bao's buns pack a punch. My unlikely favourite turned out to be the fried eggplant bao you see up there, with miso marinated eggplant, kimchi and a shot of sriracha. The garlic loaded mushroom bao is also great but I will personally stay a bit far from the mock meat one.

Cafe Nemo: The first one to put a vegetarian bao on its menu, Cafe Nemo still rocks with their mushroom bao that comes loaded with herbs and peanuts. It's a bit on the spicy side though. Your other option is their excellent tofu. Just like the Fatty Bao, I will stay away from the mock meat one. Really folks, if I wanted meat, I will eat meat.

The Bao Haus: The newest kid on the block has set up a delivery only service out of a kitchen in downtown Colaba. They only serve in South Bombay at the moment, so my tasting of their baos happened at their kitchen. I'm saying this because I am not certain how well these baos travel and whether they will be still as soft as hour or so later. But eaten fresh, the baos were flavourful with layers of ingredients and homemade sauces.



My favourite at the Bao Haus is their quinoa bao that comes topped with heaps of arugula and beet chips. The only other vegetarian bao on their menu is the fried tofu one. I loved the flavours and the peanut/herb contrast but this could be bit spicy if you don't each much chilli. You can of course go down the spicy route and promptly follow it up with their chocolate bao. Full of banana slices and marshmallows, the bao is way too sweet but it's new and different and fun to have, at least the first time round.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Dals of Punjab



If your knowledge of Punjabi cuisine comes from visits to dhabas and 'North Indian' restaurants, you can be excused for thinking that dal makhani is the only lentil dish eaten in Punjab. Made with whole black gram and laden with butter and spices, the delicious dal makhani is in fact a special occasion treat. Also, because it is tedious and takes a long time to cook, even Punjabis prefer getting a takeout of dal makhani from one of the many neighbourhood dhabas.

Also, the toor dal or arhar dal, a pulse that most of India (I'm thinking of you Gujarat, Maharashtra and UP) eats every day has no place in Punjabi cooking. My parents didn't even know such a thing existed until the first 'South Indian Dosa' place opened up in the 1980s and starting serving sambhar.

So what lentils do we cook then? A whole variety of them. In my home, where a lentil dish is cooked for dinner pretty much every day, the options range from the 'light' moong dal to both red and brown lentils. But our favourite dal is this combination of yellow split peas (chana dal) and split urad dal. It comes in two avatars that my brother and I dubbed yellow-white dal and black-yellow dal growing up. The first one is a combination of split peas with split and peeled urad dal (hence white). The second one has the same chana dal but uses split urad dal with its husk intact (hence black).

To make my family's favourite yellow-white dal, mix 1/2 cup each of chana dal and white urad dal. Wash thoroughly, then put in a pressure cooker with 4 cups of water, 1 tsp turmeric powder, 1 tsp red chilli powder and salt to taste. Cook for 6-7 whistles until the dal is soft and cooked through but you can still see individual grains. You need the consistency of a thick soup so if the dal appears too watery, put the pan back on heat and boil until the excess water dries off. You can now set the dal aside until you are ready to eat.

Just before eating, temper the dal. Chop 1 onion finely. Heat 1 tbsp ghee in a small pan. Add 1 tsp cumin seeds and wait until they start to splutter. Add the chopped onion and stir fry until the onion turns golden. Pour the tempering into the dal, stir to mix and sprinkle garam masala and optionally, finely chopped coriander leaves to garnish.

If you are making black-yellow dal, follow exactly the same process but change the mix to 3/4 cup chana dal and 1/4 cup split urad dal.