Pesar pappu or moong dal (my normal dal)

This was the everynight dal in Domalguda (home in Hyderabad). It was the only thing that was made extra in the evening – apart from phulkas (chapatis) and rice of course; we ate the morning’s vegetable and meat and this new dal. And thinking of it now, it still makes my mouth water – the whole scene, bringing it to the table – I can literally taste it. It used to be cooking on the kerosene stove in the kitchen verandah for ages every evening. And when it was Lalamma cooking it was always a struggle to limit the amount of garlic she put in it! Oh it is a lovely dal – simple, with a few tomatoes delicately dotting the gentle yellow of the dal, nothing garish, nothing strong. Everyone seems to really love it, here too.

If you’re cooking for, say, 8 people (You might want to freeze some left over dal for another time, or you want to have it for breakfast as I used to – cold dal (we had no microwave! – but it’s actually nicer this way with the contrast of temperatures) – spread on to hot, buttery toast).

I mug moong dal (or red lentils if easier)

3 fat cloves of garlic

1 large onion, sliced

2 fresh chillies slit down the middle (remove before serving to non-Indian eaters) or finely chopped

1 can of chopped tomatoes (or much better if you use fresh tomatoes, ideally little ones halved, which bob around in the dal)


For the talimpu (tempering)

2 or 3 tablespoons sunflower oil

1 heaped teaspoon cumin seeds

1 heaped teaspoon black mustard seeds

One handful karyapak (curry leaves).

Half teaspoon turmeric

Fresh coriander leaves if at all possible

Salt – 1.5 to 2 teaspoons salt


Put one large mug of moong dal (washed) into a large saucepan with about 3 or 4 mugs of water (preferably just boiled so its quicker); chuck in the onion, chillies and garlic, bring to boil and let it simmer for at least about twenty minutes or so. Keep watching it – never let dal (or milk) burn – it smells awful. So be prepared to add more water. You can make it as thin or as thick as you like. (If you do find it has started to stick to the bottom of the pan, don’t scrape it up – just put the dal into a new pan and carry on). When it’s pretty nearly done, add the chopped fresh tomatoes (or a can if you need to) and cook for another ten minutes or so until they are blended in. It doesn’t matter if you boil the dal for a lot longer – just gets more gooey. Just add water as needed.

Meanwhile, put a small kadai (wok) or small frying pan on the fire. When it’s completely dry add the oil; when the oil is very hot (but not smoky) add the cumin and mustard seeds. They will crackle and pop. Then add the karyapak which will splutter (so watch out); then add some of the chopped coriander, stir around a bit, then the salt and the turmeric and turn fire off. (If you feel like an extra kick to the dal, add some more sliced garlic and a chopped chilli at this point for a few seconds of frying). Add this to the pot of dal and listen to it sizzle! Garnish with the rest of the coriander and serve. And if you’re really feeling decadent add in a knob of ghee (or butter) on top and eat with simply boiled rice! And that's it!

pesar pappu.jpg