From the kitchen of Nirmala Swamidoss McConigley
Handed down to her daughter, Nina McConigley
1 cup of red lentils (washed well)
3–4 cups water
2 tbsp oil
6–7 cloves garlic (cut in two)
1/4 tsp asafetida (sometimes called hing), you get this at Indian stores
1/4 tsp turmeric
1 tomato (add at the end)
Salt to taste
Fresh cilantro for garnish
Bring all ingredients (except tomato) to a boil, then lower heat to medium.
Let cook for about 20 minutes. You may need to stir or even add a little more
water if it looks thick.
After 20 minutes, or when lentils are soft, add seasoning:
In a small separate pan, heat 2 tbsps oil.
When oil is hot, add:
1/2 tsp black mustard seed
1 tsp of urad dal (white lentils)
1/2 tsp cumin
Brown these three things—you’ll hear the mustard seed start to crack,
and the white lentils will brown nicely. Be careful not to burn them (this is
easy) as the white lentils will become really hard if overcooked.
Add to dal. Then add 1 tsp curry powder and 1 tsp salt (or to taste) to the dal.
Add tomato and cilantro as a garnish. You can also cook this with any other
veggies in the dal—cut up eggplant, beans, etc.
Another nice thing to add is 1–2 tsp of sambar powder, which you can get
at any Indian grocery store. It adds nice flavor!
Nina McConigley was born in Singapore and grew up in Wyoming. She is the author of the story collection Cowboys and East Indians, winner of the PEN Open Book Award. She teaches at the University of Wyoming.