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Nostalgia…

I have vivid memories of all the comforting Indian food my mom used to make for us. Since she was a working mom, she always harbored a little guilt for being away from home all day long. She made it up to us with her sumptuous, healthy and delicious home-cooked meals. I still struggle to understand how she managed to come up with all the variety of food before sending us to school and heading off to work with my dad every day! Or coming home and then dishing up one of her soothing daals with rice.

One of our favorite comfort foods used to be the moogache medga she made. We would know that dinner was ready by training our noses to the heavenly scent of rice wafting from the kitchen and engulfing the whole house.

The rice has its own history. We never bought rice from the stores in my hometown. It was sent to us especially from my dad’s village, a historically charged, quaint, yet bustling temple studded place called Wai, not too far from where we were. Not Basmati, not Ambemohar, not Jasmine, not like any rice I have eaten anywhere I have traveled. This was one out-of-this-world kind of rice!! And so, we would have this wonderful rice, steaming and hot straight from the pressure cooker, add a ladle or two of the daal and top it with a dollop of homemade ghee.

A salad of finely chopped tomatoes, onion, cucumbers, coriander leaves mixed with salt, sugar and generously sprinkled lime juice would balance out the whole meal.

Here, I have modified moong daal stew or moogache medga using ingredients that are readily available outside of India, and particularly outside of Maharashtra, and even more specifically away from my mom’s kitchen! Traditionally, this was spiced with a homemade sweet and wonderfully aromatic spice blend called kala masala, meaning a black spice blend (black, because it looked so). It came from my grandmother and the ingredients were a guarded secret! My Aji, or grandmother who was from Wai, made this delicious irreplaceable spice blend using her very own recipe passed down through generations.

This used to be a staple blend in our kitchen as she would bring us jars with tightly wound cloth under the lids to retain the freshness of the spices. Being far from home and since this blend has too many ingredients and is best made pounded by hand, I have not ventured to add this to the list at Aromatic Spice Blends, yet. So, I have been making this daal using my mild garam masala and am happy to proclaim that this continues to be a favorite of my 5 and a half year old, who I can very well say has already developed discerning tastes! Here’s to a simple, nourishing, comforting humble moong daal stew!

Ingredients

Whole green moong or mung: 1 cup

Red or yellow onion: 1 small, thinly diced

Cilantro to garnish, chopped fine

Ginger: 1/4” grated

Garlic: 1 clove grated

Tomato: 1 small diced

Aromatic Spice Blends mild garam masala: 3 tsp.

A pinch of turmeric

A pinch of Asafoetida (optional)

1 tsp grated jaggery or 1 tsp sugar (optional)

Directions

Wash and pressure cook the moong daal with the turmeric and asafoetida (allow the pressure to be released three times, then simmer for 10 minutes).

Sauté the onion until soft and translucent, add grated ginger, garlic and some of the chopped cilantro; sauté for 2 minutes. Add the mild Garam Masala and diced tomato to this and continue sautéing another minute on low heat. Now add the pressure-cooked daal (it should be cooked well, almost mushy). Add salt to taste and a tsp of grated jaggery; then add some water to this (2 cups) to get the desired consistency. Allow this to come to a slow boil and then let it simmer for 5-8 minutes. Pairs best with hot steaming white rice and a twist of lime juice.

Note: The mild garam masala includes nigella and fennel seeds in addition to the spices used in regular garam masala. This blend has no red chillies or paprika in it.