While legumes, pulses and lentils are used in many parts of the world — North Africa, southern Europe, West Asia, China and the countries of Latin America — it is in the Indian sub-continent that they are cooked not just on a wide scale but also with unmatched culinary skills and imagination. The daal is a staple food of this region, consumed by all economic brackets at all times of the year.
This book is a tribute to the rich and awesome diversity of Indian gastronomic traditions. The recipes in the book — that include not only daal curries but also daal-based snacks, savouries and sweets — cover most regions and communities of India. It also includes several international lentil recipes. A deep knowledge of world cuisine and fine understanding of flavours have immensely helped in raising the bar of one of the simplest fares of the world.
Salma Husain is a passionate cook, food historian and a Persian scholar; she has used the language in exploring the history of food. Salma has worked with the Star Celebrity Chef Gary Rhodes from London for a British television serial and also with South Korean Television for their series on Indian food. She has appeared on Indian television with her feature Journey of Kabab, which has been telecast by Urdu TV as well. Salina has worked as a consultant of Indian food with ITC Hotels. She writes on food for popular journals and newspapers and has award-winning cook books to her credit. Her Flavours of Avadh (Niyogi Books, 2015) is a lively documentation of life and food traditions of Lucknow and adjoining areas. Salma received the National Tourism Award 2009 from the Vice-President of India Md. Hamid Ansari. Salma Husain lives in Gurgaon, Haryana. She enjoys cooking for her friends and does it with great love and passion.
Vijay Kumar Thukral, Executive Chef, India International Centre, Delhi, has been serving the global hospitality industry for more than 35 years and the IIC since 1988. Trained in Food Craft and Food Production (Cookery), he supervises the IIC F&B section, specially contributing to IIC special dinners and food festivals. Thukral published Secrets from the Kitchen: Fifty Years of Culinary Experience at the India International Centre with Bhicoo Manekshaw (Niyogi Books, 2013).
Legumes, pulses and lentils figure in one form or the other – whole, split, mashed, powdered or sprouted – in everyday meals in India and in much of the rest of South Asia. Many of them are commonly known as daals. The most basic meal in India – one that is within the reach of the poorest of the poor – consists of a daal curry served either with parboiled rice, steamed rice savouries (idlis, dosas or appams) or with rotis (griddle wheat bread). The variety of daals used include moong bean, split pea (urad), pigeon pea (matar) lentil (masoor), red kidney bean (rajma) and a few others.
The simplest, indeed the most austere, daal curry I know comes fro Maharastra. It is called caran and is made with boiled and slightly mashed pigeon peas to which you add salt and a dash of sugar. The daal is sometimes seasoned – with a little oil, a pinch of asafetida (heeng), cumin seeds and, sometimes, chilli powder –to enhance its bland flavour. It is ten mixed with steaming hot rice along with a tricke of clarified butter (ghee) and a few drops of lemon juice.
Every feast prepared in Maharashtra on an auspicious occasions begins with the varan bhaat. Its symbolic worth lies in the fact that it soothes, but does not titillate, the palate. It is nutritious without a hint of ostentation. Its austere nature confers on it a cachet of purity. It is, in plain words, free of the taint of gustatory sensuousness. To say that no dish is as satisfying as varan bhaat is to insinuate that one is liberated from earthly pleasures including, especially, the sinful pleasure of gluttony.
The dish thus contains the promise of spiritual bliss. This is a supreme culinary example of measured self-denial or, if you will, a deliberate defiance of every conceivable seduction of the sense of taste. Turn by turn the varan bhaat is thus akin to mother’s milk, a homage paid to ancestors, a religious ritual, an act of piety and the assertion of the soul to be free of human bondage. This is ‘soul food’ par excellence. Let me hasten to add that this dish, to mangle a metaphor, is not always my cup of tea.
While legumes, pulses and lentils are used in many parts of the world – North Africa, southern Europe, West Asia China, countries of Latin America – it is in Indian sub-continent that they are cooked not just on a wide scale but also with unmatched culinary skills and imagination. One food historian I know contends that the way a curry or a soup of pigeon peas (toor/arhar) is made changes every twenty-five kilometres or so across the length and breadth of India. The difference lies not so much in the techniques deployed to cook the dish but in the sort of ingredients, spices and seasonings used to create specific flavours and aromas.
Such curries contain all kinds of vegetables and sometimes meat too. The varieties of sambhar and rasam key elements of south Indian cuisines that now enjoy national and even international renown – alone testify to the ubiquitous presence of daals in South Asian gastronomic traditions. It takes a connoisseur to distinguish between their myriad shades of subtlety. These derive partly from the practices of a particular caste – for example, Iyers and Iyengars, Chitpavan and Saraswat Brahmins, Reddys and Khammas etc – and partly from family practices. The latter are closely guarded recipes that have been handed down from one generation to another.
On the question of the subtlety and sophistication of daal preparations, an entry in the section of The Cambridge History of Food devoted to Indian cuisine is singnificant: ‘If Hinduism has given a high spiritual content to the meal, it has paid little attention to the art of cookery. Islam gave to Indian cookery its masterpiece dishes…’ In her many writings on the Muslim contribution to India’s rich gastronomic heritage, Salma Husian has vouchsafed for the accuracy of the secnd sentence in this entry. With this latest book she debunks the inaccuracy of the first sentence.
I have been asked several times by my friends why I chose daal as a subject for my forthcoming book – well a good question. A large portion of my childhood memories are woven around daal. I have not forgotten the taste of daal-palidun made by my oldest sister who lived in the Bohra vicinity; I also remember my other sister licking her fingers after polishing off her bowl of arhar daal and the disdainful looks of my brother who hated eating daal unless combined with lamb or chicken.
And I avoided daal like the plague. I hoped and prayed that I never marry into a daal loving family but alas my prayers were not answered and I did get married into the family where daal was preent on the table at both meals and was enjoyed and loved by all.
Food definitely connects people and places. Immersed in these lovely memories I took up my pen to write a book on lentils. The book Pull of Pulses: Full of Beans offers a wide, select variety of different lentils commonly consumed in rural and urban households of India. Simple homemade recipes from different parts of India will not only add to the nutritive value of your diet but also enlighten you of their medicinal qualities. Recipes have been classified into different groups- soups and salads, savouries, main course, pulao, breads, desserts, all-time favourites and recipes from around the world.
This book is a combined effort of me and Chef Vijay Thukral of the India International Centre (IIC), New Delhi. The recipes included in this book have benefited from his valuable inputs and scrutiny by sharp, careful eyes. His deep knowledge of world cuisine and fine understanding of flavours have immensely helped in tasting the cooked dishes and matching the recipes accordingly. This has added great value to the book and helped shape it. Credit goes to Vijay for the complete photography session as well; he had every dish cooked and photographed under his careful supervision.
|Temper the smoking wok||15|
|Soups and salads||41|
|Pulao and rice||83|
|Daals from far and wide||101|
|Favourite and winning flavours||151|
|Breads and rotis||171|
|For the sweet tooth||181|
Item Code: NAO739 Author: Salma Husain & Vijay Thukral Cover: Paperback Edition: 2018 Publisher: Niyogi Books ISBN: 9789386906199 Language: English Size: 8.5 inch X 7.0 inch Pages: 203 (Throughout Color Illustrations) Other Details: Weight of the Book: 530 gms