Tomato Dal, and quick papad snack

After nearly 8 years of living together, I am still excited to see Mark when I get home from work and I miss him when he’s not here for dinner. Nonetheless, on the infrequent occasions that we don’t eat together (or at least eat the same meal), I am happy to be able to make Indian food, of which he’s not that fond. Upon hearing he’d be out with a friend tonight, I leapt at the chance to put some of the Indian supplies I bought recently to use, but I was starving when I got home. I could barely think straight, so instead of improvising or coming up with something on my own, I once again turned to Mahanandi and made a soup straight from Indira’s site: Tomato Dal.

Adding to my excitement was the fact that I stopped by Super H on my way home from work and happened to pick up some fresh curry leaves, not knowing when I’d be able to use them. (In fact, because Super H is usually the only place I can buy them and because they sell them in quantities much larger than I can ever use at one time and because I’m often annoyed that I don’t have any curry leaves, I’m thinking about trying to dry them.) I was able to use a few of them tonight!

This is another recipe that is going to tempt those of you who have been telling me you’re thinking of overcoming your worries about pressure cookers…

Tomato Dal
From Indira at Mahanandi

1/2 cup toor dal (yellow pigeon peas)
1 1/2 cups water
1 large tomato, chunked
1 onion, chunked
1 cayenne pepper (Indira calls for 6-8 green chilis; I used what I had on hand)
1/4 tsp turmeric
marble-sized piece of tamarind
1 tsp salt
a few curry leaves (optional; I know they can be hard to find and when I can’t, I just skip them)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp mustard seeds

Measure the toor dal and chunk the tomato and onion.

Place the above as well as the water, chili, turmeric, and tamarind in the pressure cooker.

Cover and heat over high until it comes up to pressure, then reduce heat to low or medium low and cook until the dal is falling apart. Now, Indira says this will take 10 to 15 minutes, but I think she must have soaked her dal first (I’ve seen her advise elsewhere doing so for about an hour) because mine was still hard after 14 or 15 minutes. One of the few drawbacks of using a pressure cooker is you have no idea how done something is without releasing the pressure (which takes time, though using the “quick” release method, not much), and if it’s not done, you have to go through the process of bringing it back up to pressure to continue cooking. The good news is it’s hard to overcook dal, so I upon finding it not done, I just brought it up to pressure and cooked for another 15 minutes. When the dal is so soft it’s falling apart, add the salt and mash the dal up with the back of a large wooden spoon or a wide spatula.

Bring a bit of oil up to temperature in a small skillet or pan and then add the curry leaves, cumin, and mustard seeds, frying until the mustard seeds pop. (You can do this step while the dal is cooking; it can cool in the pan before using.) When the dal is ready, stir contents of the skillet or pan into the dal.

Serve with rice. (You can’t see it but there’s a serving of rice under the dal; it got mixed together before being eaten.)

As I mentioned, I was famished when I got home, and although I thought the dal would take me 15, not 30, minutes, that still wasn’t fast enough for me to get food into my system. So as soon as the dal was in the pressure cooker, I made myself a snack of papads. Papads are very thin, crispy wafers made from lentil (or other) flour and spices. They are often served as appetizers in Indian restaurants. I like them as a snack because they are quick, tasty, and healthier than chips (my favorite kind says there are 136 calories and 0.66 grams of fat per 100 grams, which, as they’re about 11 grams each, is about 50 to 70 grams more than I usually eat at a time). This is my favorite brand, although the reason it’s my favorite has nothing to do with the taste and everything to do with the label because I find it hilarious:

Here is an uncooked papad. My favorite flavor is asafoetida, although if you aren’t familiar with the smell of asafoetida, I have to warn you you might not like it. They are also spicy from black pepper. You can get plain and other flavors as well.

Another great thing about papads is you can microwave them! It’s best to microwave them individually; they don’t like being crowded. It takes about 45 seconds per papad. This one is nearly, but not quite, done.

You can also cook them over an open flame. I did this from time to time when I had a gas stove, using tongs, turning it constantly. You should also be able to cook them on an electric stove by cooking them in a dry skillet (flip them a couple of times). However, the microwave is really the easiest and fastest.

Here are my cooked padads, ready for snacking:

I served them (to myself) with mango chutney and lime pickle.

In completely unrelated news, here’s Renae’s Random Fact of the Day: Quarks – the particles that are components of hadrons such as protons and neutrons – were named after this passage in Finnegan’s Wake:

Three quarks for Muster Mark! Sure he hasn’t got much of a bark. And sure any he has it’s all beside the mark.

I’m a big fan of Ulysses, and in fact one of my primary domain names comes from a word that’s repeated in it, but I’ve never even attempted Finnegan’s Wake. I’m reading Lisa Randall’s Warped Passages right now – I periodically punctuate my relentless reading of novels with books on string theory – and about this fun quark fact, Randall says, “This, so far as I can deduce, is pretty much unrelated to the physics of quarks except for two things: there were three of them, and they were difficult to understand.” Lisa Randall is funny! Also, I may start calling Mark Muster Mark. Maybe he’ll like that better than Smark.


  1. Courtney Said,

    August 8, 2009 @ 2:27 pm

    Oh my goodness…you have me drooling over my computer with the photos of that dal! I LOVE dal! How can Mark not like it?! I am glad you were able to enjoy it, and who knows, maybe he will come around eventually…
    I really like that cup that your dal is in! Is it something you made? It looks similar to a cup my sister (a potter) made me…


  2. renae Said,

    August 8, 2009 @ 11:57 pm

    I don’t know why Mark doesn’t love Indian food, although he’s actually okay with soup. He likes rasam and he’d probably have eaten this had he been home. In fact, although I don’t make more substantial Indian food often because he claims he doesn’t like it, when I DO make it, he eats it. So I don’t even know what he’s talking about with this “doesn’t like Indian food” nonsense!

    The little bowl is just something I picked up in a thrift store. For some reason I’m always finding great little soup bowls there. I wish I were talented enough to make stuff like that myself!

  3. Courtney Said,

    August 9, 2009 @ 3:34 pm

    I love people’s thrift store finds! I always go to thrift stores to look at kitchen stuff, and I never find anything. But I am always hopeful…everyone else seems to have such good luck!


  4. Nona Said,

    August 10, 2009 @ 9:29 am

    That label!! My friend sent me that a few years ago. We had it up on our cabinet. It’s going to get displayed somewhere in our new kitchen!

    As always, I find myself looking at this blog and drooling!!!

  5. Josiane Said,

    August 11, 2009 @ 9:22 pm

    Thanks, Renae, for answering my question on your previous post. I will definitely have to look into getting a pressure cooker, especially if you keep on tempting me with such great recipes… This dal sounds awesome! And the papads label is indeed hilarious!

  6. Kylie Said,

    August 27, 2009 @ 10:52 pm

    Hey Renae
    I used to have this problem with curry leaves as well. They’re kind of expensive to buy, given the amount you actually use. However, I have gotten around the problem by amending my recipes: one, for eg, calls for 12 curry leaves. I have amended this to ’12 sprigs of curry leaves’.

    This might not work if you are not crazy about curry leaves.

  7. Robin Stuart Said,

    May 11, 2014 @ 6:06 am

    OMG! that looks so tasty. bloody hell.. making me so hungry. great blog, pictures and breakdown on how to.. good work. The sad part is, I can only make the Indian papads or papadums with my trusty Papadum Express microwave cooking tray. The rest is gonna be tough for me. I need my Indian friend Shalini to help me make this. big fan of all this Indian food. Here in Canada we have so many Indian restaurants that we just have to get used to all this tasty food. man o man!

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