Sunday, September 02, 2012

Vaal Khichdi

"How many lentils do you have in your pantry anyway?", asked my friend. She's originally from South America, from a culture which has great love and respect for beans, but the sheer variety of lentils and beans in Indian cuisine still confounds her. I showed her my collection of dozen or so legumes, grouped together in the pantry in their recycled-yogurt-container homes. "Do they really taste different from each other" is her next question. 

The short answer is- yes, yes they do. In some cases, the taste and texture is unmistakeable and they each have their culinary uses. The slippery, sticky texture of urad dal paste cannot be replicated with anything else. Kidney beans taste dark and earthy; chickpeas are rich and creamy; moong dal has a light and mild taste. My vocabulary is not adequate to really come up with the words, but even cooked dals that end up looking quite similar in a palette of yellows and browns can taste so different from each other. All I can say is that if you keep a variety of these legumes on hand and learn to use them in different ways that have been perfected in Indian cuisines, then you can feast for a lifetime on what others would simply call a humble meal of rice and beans. 

The really fun part is when I discover a new legume or a new avatar of an old favorite. Vaal or dalimbay (I think these are called hyacinth beans in English) are treasured in Maharashtrian cuisine and I can tell you for sure that these beans have a very unique flavor- a pleasant bitterness that can be contrasted with some tamarind for tang and jaggery for sweetness and all at once you have a dish with a wonderfully complex taste. I grew up eating sprouted vaal in dalimbay bhaat and vaalache bhirde. But peeling sprouted vaal is very labor intensive so it has been ages since I bought these particular beans. 

Then I saw Vaishali's post on sweet potato and vaal dal and went, "There's vaal dal??" and promptly bought some. All the taste of my beloved vaal without the peeling- what a lucky discovery for me. Vaishali's recipe is wonderful, by the way; the sweet potatoes are the perfect foil for the mildly bitter vaal. 


So following closely on the heels of the eggplant dal in my last post, here's another simple everyday Maharashtrian dish- vaalachi khichdi. I made it in a pressure cooker for a mashed-up khichdi that screams comfort food. If you're too posh for pasty khichdi that you eat with your hands, make a stove-top version and turn off the heat before the rice and vaal dal melt together.

Vaalachi Khichdi
(Rice with Vaal Dal; serves about 3)

1. Soak together 1 cup vaal dal and 1/2 cup rice for 30 minutes.
2. In a pressure cooker, heat 1 tbsp. ghee
3. Make the tempering: 1 tsp. mustard seeds, a pinch of asafoetida, a sprig of fresh curry leaves
4. Add 1 small sliced onion and saute it until translucent.
5. Add the drained vaal and rice, salt to taste, 1/2 tsp. each turmeric and red chili powder, 1 tbsp. coriander-cumin powder, 1/2 tsp. goda masala. Saute for a few minutes.
6. Add 3 to 4 cups water, 1 tsp. tamarind paste and 1 tsp. jaggery powder
7. Close the pressure cooker lid, cook, then eat as soon as possible. It does reheat beautifully. 


Vaal khichdi with a dollop of homemade ghee and some red pepper pickle on the side

Dale's Tales

A couple of you have been asking how Dale is doing, so here's an update. Dale is now about 13 years old and he is doing well, although his age is starting to show. When the ones you love (whether humans or canine or feline) start to age and become frail, you have to take on the role of caregiver.

V is very meticulous about taking Dalu to the vet for regular shots and a nose-to-tail check up. Overall, he is in good shape but his back legs are getting weaker. He sometimes slips and struggles to get back on his feet. We're told that aging leads to loss of muscle mass and hence the weakness. For the last few visits, the vet has been saying that Dale is overweight- tipping the scales at 84 lbs- and that he could stand to lose 10 lbs. To which my response is a shrug and a "Couldn't we all stand to lose 10 lbs"?

I'm not trying to be blase or anything. But Dale has a chronic condition called Addison's Disease  that was diagnosed 5 years ago and he needs regular steroid pills to keep him alive. Steroids cause weight gain, which is a side effect of steroids in humans too. And even as Dale's interest in other things is dwindling, he still loves food! He has access to dry food all day, plus we feed him dinner (porridge) at 4 PM and biscuits (Milkbone- far and away his favorite brand) after his last walk. Every afternoon, Dale perks up and comes to me at 2 PM and seems to ask, "Is it time yet? How about now? How about now?" Tell me how I am going to explain to this dog that he needs to go on a diet.

There are some other things. Dale's often reluctant to go on walks. He's losing confidence with climbing up and down steps. We moved 2 years ago into this first floor (ground level) apartment, just so it would be easier for Dale. There are a short 4 steps to get into our door but sometimes he struggles with those too. He's having more "accidents" at home, which is very hard with a crawling baby. I just wish he could talk and tell me if something hurts because this is a very stoic dog and we can only guess at what he's feeling.

This all probably sounds more bleak than it really is. Dale has more good days than bad days and we're grateful for that. Despite everything, he seems content and happy in his usual gruff way. Lila adores him to bits. Thanks to him, she adores all dogs in general. When we're out for a walk, every dog we pass on the street is greeted with a whoop of joy. Yesterday, she found a kibble of dog food on the floor, and just as I was rushing over to snatch it away from her, she turned around and offered it to Dale!


40 comments:

  1. Awwww Dale :) We've gone through this with 3 of our pets in the last year. Even as the good days get fewer and further between, they're still so wonderful. Give him an aloof hug and ear-scratch from me!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 3 in a year- I just can't imagine that, Bek. I am so glad you got to spend some time with Dale when you visited this summer.

      Delete
  2. Very touching note about Dale.
    Rehana

    ReplyDelete
  3. I love Dalu Dada! I have never seen him, but Dale's tales make me feel good all over! Old age, human or dog is a delicate stage, watching someone you love, struggle with day to day tasks, is so difficult and heart breaking.
    All the more reason to give them TLC.

    Lila is such a smart baby, already! She knows doggy food is different from 'her' food :) Muuaah!

    I like Vaal Khichadi. I make Dalimbay bhaat, and yes peeling vaal is so time consuming ( specially now, as I have severe joint inflammation in my right hand, middle finger, sigh) I have seen these beans in the Indian store and I wanted to buy them, I will now, thanks to ur post.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for your love and wishes for Dalu, Manasi! Sorry to hear of your joint inflammation- I hope it gets better.

      Delete
  4. That bit on Dale was so touching and it must be heart warming to see Lila and Dale have their little interactions. We really wish they could talk to us, don't we ? I've never had a pet since my mom was terrified of dogs, but we used to be the caregivers for most street dogs
    I started using vaal after I came to Ahmedabad, had never seen in it in Bangalore. I have just bought the vaal dal a couple of days back. I use the vaal to make tittori - have you tried that, its a simple and tasty dish

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The street dogs need kind caregivers! You are very sweet to give them some love.

      Tittori is new to me. Have you posted a recipe??

      Delete
  5. Thanks for Dalu dada's update. Wish he has many many years of happiness with you guys. Lila is so sweet to feed him like that!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you, Kavs for the sweet wish!

      Delete
  6. Dale's update REALLY touched me. And Lila is such a smart child!

    You write so well Nupur, it makes me feel as if you 4 are part of my family. So what if I've never met you? :)

    The vaal khichadi looks awesome.

    Preeti

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I don't know if Lila REALLY knew, it was probably a coincidence, but surprised me nevertheless! You're definitely part of my family too :)

      Delete
  7. Vaal dal is a recent find for me though I have known it for a long time.

    Lila is smart and Dale sure is enjoying his time with her. Thanks for the update Nupur and wishing Dale more of the good days than bad.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess there are more dals than we can possibly explore in one lifetime?!

      Delete
  8. Hi Nupur--A very touching update and broke my heart a bit. Having been through the aging process with over eight dogs in my lifetime, the one thing I can tell you is that they know in their hearts how much you love them. The vet just told us the same about our boy--his limp is caused from muscular degeneration of some kind. He compensates well--navigates the stairs a bit more slowly, but shows us every day how much he loves us! I am sure Dale does the same. Hugs to you all!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Kelly- it broke my heart a bit to write this update too. Dale definitely shows his affection in his own way. Like by howling his head off when I leave for 15 minutes to go to the library!!! Although he ignores me much of the time I am home. He's a one of a kind.

      Delete
  9. My heart goes out to Dale. It is indeed painful to see a loved one suffering in old age, he is so blessed to be surrounded with so much love.

    Lila is really smart for her age to differenciate dog food from human food :) lots of love to her, I could imagine her extending her litte hand to feed Dale. :D

    Would this Vaal dal be fit to make Vaalache birde?

    - Priti

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. No idea if she can really differentiate but she quite enjoyed feeding him that morsel. These days she loves going over to splash her hand in his water bowl! Kids!

      This vaal dal would definitely work for birde. But watch carefully while cooking because it falls apart into mush very easily.

      Delete
  10. Yay, another wonderful recipe for me to use up my vaal dal. Cannot wait to make this!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your sweet potato vaal dal has become part of our dinner rotation.

      Delete
  11. I've been scared of dogs all my life. But your tales about Dale make me feel like I love this guy though I've never met him.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for saying that! Believe it or not, many people who are afraid of dogs (or just don't like them) have changed their mind completely after meeting Dale.

      Delete
  12. Aww.. I had tears in my eyes ater this post as I was remembering the aging and the loss of our dogs growing up. How is Lila? Have you moved? Hugs and love.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh Mandira, yes, that is the toughest part about having pets. They go and leave you heartbroken, but such is life. Lila is doing well, enjoys the swings on the playground these days. Lots of love to you and A too.

      Delete
  13. I know vaal and then kadve vaal .. but vaal dal is new, and seriously no peeling ..good :), will ask around and try out this recipe.

    And say hearty hello to Dale. Through your posts I’ve have this sweet attachment with Dale. Just love his peaceful face and it his snaps always make me smile. It had been a while you posted about him and I literally used to browse the post first to check if you have his update ..Wish him loads n loads of love and care, and he is a champ and am sure you all will have just good days with him.. take care.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Are vaal and kadve vaal different? Always thought they were the same but I guess there's such variety...
      Thanks for the sweet wishes for Dale. Yes, he is a quiet and peaceful guy and I'll make sure to give regular updates on him.

      Delete
    2. yeah, vaal has light coloured skin and kadve vaal has dark coloured skin :) I've both in my pantry .. will see if i can click a snap :D

      Delete
  14. That vaal khichdi does look awesome but I can't take my eyes off that pickle! yummy... combination.

    Thanks for the moving update on Dale... How cool that Lila already knows which is Dale's food... my kids would pop into their mouth, any and everything they found on the floor!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yup- khichdi and pickle is the ultimate combination!

      Oh, trust me, Lila pops everything edible and non-edible from the floor straight into her mouth but somehow seemed to know that the kibble is for Dalu and shared with him.

      Delete
  15. Like Kanchan before, Vaal daal is new to me too - I will be on lookout for it next time we visit Indian groceries.

    A very touching update about Dale - it is a difficult time when you see a loved one suffering but so are the ways of the world. Here's to hoping him more of the good days :)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks PJ! Vaal dal is a nice addition to the pantry, a very tasty lentil and cooks super fast.

      Delete
  16. we are dal lovers as well. This week I made a huge pot of sambhar in the slow cooker (tempering done in a frying pan) that saved me a huge bulk of time, plus I've found dals taste better when slow cooked. I wondered if you are a slow cooker user and if so if you would post some recipes in the future. I am reading the Isabel Dalhousie novels at the moment at your suggestion and I love the thoughtful slow pace that the books have( plus my brother lived for many years in Edinburgh for many years ...I love that city).Good luck with your move.Best Arpita.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Arpita- I've somehow never thought of getting a slow cooker mostly because I just don't have the space for one more appliance. And because vegetarian cooking is so quick in a pressure cooker and regular pots (I find that to get a deeper taste, it is just as helpful to make dals a day in advance).

      So glad you are enjoying the Isabel Dalhousie books, especially with the Edinburgh connection.

      Delete
  17. Love, love the Vaal Khichdi, my mom makes something similar. and lots of hugs to dear Dale

    ReplyDelete
  18. i can really relate to Dale's story. we also have an aging dog and it saddens me see that they struggle in climbing 4 steps from the stairs =(

    ReplyDelete
  19. I'm sorry to hear about Dale - it's tough when a pet goes through that. As you say, how can you explain to him the way things are? On another note, I just read you're moving to Georgia. Good luck! Athens is getting a terrific blogger.

    ReplyDelete
  20. Nupur, I just made this for lunch and loved it a lot. I made it separately in a pot and it turned out great. I'm doing 3 days of Maharashtrian dishes for blogging marathon next week and this is one of them. Thanks for introducing 'Vaal' to us. Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to say hello!