Wednesday, 12 June 2013

A lazy Sunday lunch: Bengali style moong daal and methi keema

It was a particularly rainy weekend. When you are living away from home, and it is raining, you will invariably feel homesick. At least I always do.
So on this rainy Sunday afternoon, I decided to cook moong dal and methi keema, just like we have at home.
I am no chef, and most of my cooking follows the same route:
1. Call up my mom to get the recipe I want, or some other family member whose recipe I want.
2. Note down the ingredients.
3. Go to my poorly stocked kitchen and find out the few ingredients I do have.
4. Proceed to cook with those ingredients after spending five minutes convincing myself that the missing ingredients might not be important after all.

So, to the intrepid and the interested, read on.

Sona moog

My version of Sona moog dal (Yellow moong dal, golden grams):

What you need:
1 cup split yellow moong dal (golden grams)
3-4 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter)
1 teaspoon jeera (cumin seeds)
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
4-5 cups of water
Salt and sugar to taste.
 How you make:
1. Dry toast the grams over low heat till you start getting a roasted warm smell, but not so much as to burn them. They should just turn a richer golden, bordering on golden brown when you take them off the heat.

Dry toasting
 2. Wash the grams well. Boil them in water and set aside once done. The pulses should still be identifiable, the dal should not be one smooth mass.

3. In a kadai (wok), heat about 1 tablespoon of ghee taking care not to burn it. Add the cumin seeds, wait for them to start crackling and then pour the dal in, add the turmeric powder and let it simmer.

4. Add salt and sugar to taste. This is a dal typically bengali, that is sweeter than it is savory. It is still not so sweet as to taste like a dessert but still sweeter than you average dal. I would put about three tablespoons of sugar in.

5. Once you are happy with the taste and consistency, turn off the heat and add the remaining ghee. The dal is now ready.

Tip: Adding a bit of ghee at the very end helps the dal retain the smell of the ghee.

My version of Methi Keema:
This is really my uncle's recipe, which I have grossly simplified. The original recipe has greater subtlety of flavour and is a yummy temptation of decadence and calories. I hope to share the original recipe with you someday.

What you need:
250g keema (mince). I used chicken mince.
100g ghee (clarified butter)
300g onions finely shopped
200g potato diced
1/2 cup vegetable oil (for frying potatoes)
1/2 teaspoon methi seeds (Fenugreek seeds)
2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoon ginger paste
1-2 cups of water
Freshly ground toasted cinnamon and cloves
Chilly powder, salt and sugar to taste.

How you make:
1. In a kadai, heat about 60g of ghee, taking care not to burn it. If the ghee is smoking, it is too hot. Add the chopped onions and cook over low heat. The onions should reduce to less than half their volume and become nice and brown. Strain the onions, take them out of the kadai and set aside.
Fry onions in ghee

Onions done


2. Add the remaining ghee to the ghee already present in the kadai and heat it.
3. Add the methi seeds to the ghee. Once the ghee is infused will the smell of methi, discard the methi seeds by straining the ghee. Exercise caution at this step since methi seeds are extremely bitter and may spoil the taste of the entire dish.

Potatoes ready to be fried

4. In another wok, heat the vegetable oil and gently fry the potatoes coated with one teaspoon of turmeric and some salt.
Once the surface of the potatoes become golden, take them off the heat. It does not matter if the center is still raw since we will add it to the keema and cook them again. Store the oil for future use.

5. Take the methi infused ghee in a wok. Add the ginger paste and turmeric powder. Once the masala is slightly fried, add the keema, chilli powder, salt and keep frying. The keema will give out water and you much keep cooking till this water evaporates and the ghee separates. This process if called 'koshano' in bengali.
5. After 'koshano', add the fried onions and the fried potatoes to the keema. Stir in and pour the water in. Let it cook the keema through. Add more water is necessary. Once the keema and the potatoes are cooked through, thicken the gravy bu evaporating the excess water. It should not have a lot of liquid gravy.
Methi Keema

6. Adjust the salt. Add sugar and chilli powder to taste. Before taking the keema off the heat, add the freshly ground cinnamon and clove powder.

1. Adding a bit of cinnamon and clove powder at the very end imparts a beautiful smell.
2. Frying the potatoes before adding them to the keema helps retain their shape.
3. Sugar should be added only after the keema has cooked though. Addition of sugar before the meat/ vegetables finish cooking makes them take longer to cook through.

I served this with freshly prepared steamed rice and ate it on the balcony watching the rain fall...
Pardon the presentation. I was hungry after all the cooking and everything smelled delicious. In any case, comfort food does not need to look restaurant style.
Till next time...

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