Under pressure

Mallika Basu - Under pressure

Posted 13th March 2007

kali-dal.jpgPressure cookers have never been my thing. My close friend in New York forgot about hers, wandered off to blow dry her hair and caused a minor explosion, leaving her to clean spinach off the ceiling.

And this girl is smart. I, on the other hand, have a small brain that is entirely used up 9 to 6, Monday to Friday.

This has been a dilemma of sorts. How can I write about quick Indian cooking and ignore a device that can cut cooking time to a third?

So I succumbed and bought myself a pressure cooker on Sunday. It’s a scary-looking contraption with an intimidating set of accompanying instructions. I read the guide cover to cover and still didn’t understand it. (small brain, remember?)

I decided to brave a possible explosion and cook something. Kali dal – a black lentil preparation with historic roots in Mughal courts that normally takes four hours of cooking. It’s not low fat or quick to make, but it tastes damn good. With a pressure cooker, at least it’s quicker – a mere 45 minutes in total.

I sat in the kitchen reading some vapid fashion magazine, too petrified to go anywhere lest something terrible happened. And then a miracle. Hubby waltzed into the kitchen and knew exactly what to do with the thing. Soon it was rotating, hissing and cooking just like it said it would in the brochure. Hurrah!

I am very impressed with the results and will definitely be using the thing more. I might even name it. All suggestions welcome.

Serves 4:

250 gms urad dal, soaked overnight
5 tsp ginger paste
5 tsp garlic paste
4 tsp tomato puree
1 tsp chilli powder
100 gm butter, salted
Salt to taste

Wash the urad lentils thoroughly after they’ve soaked overnight. Stick in the pressure cooker and bring to a boil with two pints of water, roughly reaching about two inches above the lentils.

Lower the flame so that it is still boiling gently. Add the ginger, garlic, tomato puree and chilli powder.

Now stick the lid on, click to shut and wait until the weight starts rotating and hissing. You have to lower the flame to a point where the weight just about keeps rotating and hissing from time to time. This means the pressure is right (listen to me… new born pressure cooker user!!).

Give it about 20 minutes. Then slowly release the steam by lifting the weight with a logn handled spoon. When all the steam escapes, you can take the lid off.

Because we didn’t use much water, the lentils will be cooked but quite dry. Add hot water to make it thick but runny in consistency, chuck in the butter and add salt to finish.

The dal is very tasty and very rich. Enjoy it with bread of some sort – nan, paratha or rotis.

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