Tuesday 7 April 2020

baingan dal
I will not talk about isolation. I will not talk about isolation. I will not talk about isolation. I will not talk about isolation. I will not talk about isolation.

Dang it, I did. 

And it's all because of them lentils. Other people hoard toilet paper. Apparently, I hoard lentils. It's the Indian in me. If everything else fails, there is always rice and dal. So it is a good thing that the family likes dal, because lately it's been dal with everything. 

I never really had dal when I was growing up, per se. We tended to have the much lighter version of lentils, a soupy concoction called 'saar', which was a much tangier, watery version of the thick lentil dal that was usual in the North of India. It was either saar or rasam, which was a much spicier and brothier version that was traditional to Tamil Nadu and the South Eastern coast of India. 

My taste for thick, creamy masala dal developed from my university days in Delhi, where a version was served with every meal in the hostel mess, as well as from my dad, who preferred this version from his army days. He described those days with a hint of nostalgia - the terribly cold nights when they staggered into camps at the very end (dad was an electrician in the army), carrying their heavy packs, huddled under thin blankets that barely kept out the biting mountain cold, the hard, snowy ground  under which they made camp, the tents that did nothing to shield them from the cutting wind, the army days were not a good memory for my father - but he did describe the dal, straight from steaming cauldrons, eaten with rotis, a taste my dad has kept to this day.

baingan dal

I did venture out once in the last fortnight or so to stock up on groceries, and went to the farmers market. I like to shop at a few places there, and I needed to stock up on dried mushrooms from MoNa Mushrooms, and vegetables from Doef's Greenhouses. I grabbed my usual packs, a few large eggplants, tomatoes, cucumbers, and peppers. 

Having gone through most of our vegetables, only an eggplant remained. So I made this delicious version of dal, with burnt eggplant, the smoky flavour really setting off the creamy, tomatoey dal. The recipes that I looked at in my books all cooked the eggplant with the day, but I love the charred flavour of bagara baingan, so I roasted my eggplant, then chopped the flesh before stirring it into the day, which made for deliciously silky chunks of eggplant and a hearty dish to celebrate (hopefully!) the last of winter. 

And we will not talk of isolation.


1 large eggplant
1½ cups red lentils, picked over and rinsed
Water, as required
1 tablepsoon neutral oil (I use grapeseed)
1 onion, diced
1 large tomato, diced
1 inch piece of ginger, grated or finely chopped
2 hot green chilies, or to taste, finely chopped
½ teaspoon turmeric
½ teaspoon garam masala
Salt, to taste
Fresh, chopped cilantro, to garnish
Lemon juice, to taste 

For the tarka:

2 tablespoons neutral oil (I use grapeseed)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 whole garlic cloves, bruised
2 long, dried red chilies

Rice or rotis, to serve


Preheat the oven to 400 F. Place the eggplant on a baking sheet, poking a couple holes in the skin, and roast for roughly one hour, turning once, until soft and deflated, and with a slightly charred look.

While the eggplant is roasting, place the lentils and water in a large pot, and cook until the lentils are soft, topping up with hot water, as required. This could take up to 20 minutes.

Place the oil in a shallow pan, and add the onions. Fry them for about 7 minutes, until they are beginning to go golden at the edges. Add the tomato and ginger and green chilies, and fry for one minute. Add the turmeric and garam masala, and cook together until the masala comes together in a sticky mass. Season with a little salt.

Place the roasted eggplant on a chopping board, when still hot, and quickly tear off the skin. Chop the flesh roughly, and then transfer the chopped flesh into the onion-tomato mixture. Season again with a little salt.

Tip the eggplant mixture into the cooked lentils, and stir well. Reheat, taste and adjust the seasoning, stirring in a spoonful or so of lemon juice, to taste. Stir in the chopped cilantro.

When ready to serve, heat the oil for the tarka in a small pan, and add the cumin, garlic and chilies. Stir for a minute, then tip the seasoned oil, with all the seasonings, into the eggplant and lentil mixture. Stir and serve with rice or roti.

1 comment :

  1. Hi Michelle, I found this blog while looking for Mangalorean recipes. This article made me smile - like you while everyone was stockpiling on mince and toilet paper, I headed out to the local Indian store for a big bag of rice and lentils. :)


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