Dal Dhokli

Dal Dhokli

Dal Dhokli is a one-pot meal popular in the Western Indian states of Rajasthan, Gujarat, and Maharashtra. There are two components to it – a soupy dal and the pasta-like dhokli, known as chakolya or varanphal in Maharashtra. The type of dal and how it is cooked varies with the place and personal preference. You can pick any lentil recipe of your choice but make sure you keep it watered down. That’s where i went wrong the first time I attempted it and made a gluggy thing I never wanted to revisit. Wanting to use my Marcato Atlas150 for an Indian dish I decided to give this Sunday-favourite another try. This time around I picked our everyday Maharashtrian Amti for the dal and I now have a winner on hands. Sweet, tart amti makes an excellent soup for these chakolya.

The dhokli can be plain, without the greens, though when in season methi greens are a must-add. Dhokli may be shaped into simple squares or diamonds but can get pretty fancy like the currently-trending star-fish pasta shape known in India as Dal ki Dulhan. You should be able to find all the ingredients for this Sunday-favourite at any local Indian store.

Ingredients for Dhokli

1 cup whole wheat flour (plus additional for dusting)

1 packed cup fresh methi (fenugreek greens), picked, rinsed, and chopped fine*

¼ tsp turmeric powder

½ tsp red chili (cayenne) powder

½ tsp coriander seed powder

1 tbsp besan (chickpea flour)

¼ tsp salt

½ tsp sugar

1 tbsp peanut oil

½ tsp ajwain (carrom seed)

green chillies and ginger crushed in a mortar and pestle, 2 tsp or to taste

a splash of water

* If using dried methi, adjust water accordingly

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Ingredients for Dal

¼ cup toor dal (split pigeon peas), rinsed and soaked for an hour

1 ½ cup water

a pinch of hing (asafoetida)

½ tsp turmeric

1 tbsp peanut oil

½” piece of cassia bark (or cinnamon)

3 cloves

¼ tsp black mustard seed

¼ tsp cumin seed

green chillies and ginger crushed in a mortar and pestle, 1 tsp or to taste

½ tsp red chili (cayenne) powder

½ tsp coriander seed powder

½ tsp goda masala (omit, if you cannot find it, but it gives this dal its distinctive taste)

my family recipe – https://madteaparty.wordpress.com/2007/06/15/goda-masala/

½ tsp ground roasted cumin

1 tsp jaggery (or unrefined sugar)

2 pieces of kokum (or any tart fruit or tamarind paste)


Tempering ingredients

1 rounded tsp ghee

½ tsp black mustard seed

½ tsp cumin seed

2 or 3 whole, dry red chilies, broken into half

a few curry leaves

2 tbsp peanuts, untoasted


Fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Lime wedges

Measure out all the ingredients for dhokli in a wide basin or mixing bowl. Using very little water knead it into a medium stiff dough. Be careful while adding water – methi leaves bring considerable moisture to the dough and we do not want a soft dough. Knead for 5 minutes. Cover and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, prepare the dal. In a pressure cooker combine the soaked toor dal with water, hing, and turmeric and cook till soft and mushy, about 10-15 minutes. Wait for the pressure to subside before opening the lid of the pressure cooker. Alternatively, cook the dal in a pan. Mash the dal with a wooden masher.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a heavy pan and add the cassia bark and cloves. Add the rest of the spices in the order listed waiting between each addition till the spices start to splutter and become fragrant. Add crushed green chilies and ginger and stir. Add the red chili powder and coriander seed powder and stir for a few seconds. Add the mashed dal to the pan before adding goda masala and roasted cumin powder. Add kokum for a fruity tartness. Stir and check consistency. Add water as needed to get a thin soupy dal. Season with salt and jaggery (or unrefined sugar) and let it simmer for 10 minutes.

Divide the rested dough into 3 or 4 pieces. Dust the work bench with a little flour and roll out the dough ball as thin as a roti – no. 3 setting on the Atlas 150. Cut into desired shapes. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Carefully drop dhokli into the simmering dal. Give a stir to ensure none are stuck to the bottom. They will begin to float in a minute or two. Let them boil gently for 5-7 minutes.

As the dhokli cook, prepare the tempering. Melt ghee in a heavy pan. To the hot ghee add the ingredients in the order they are listed making sure to stir for a few seconds between each addition. Finally, add the peanuts. Stir peanuts in the hot ghee till they darken and smell toasty – a minute and a half. Take off the heat immediately. They will continue to cook a bit in the hot ghee.

Ladle the dal-dhokli into serving bowls. Spoon over the spiced ghee with the peanuts. Garnish with fresh coriander leaves and serve with a squeeze of fresh lime.

Dal Dhokli

Spring Table: Kashmir

A Picnic in the Garden

It’s Spring all around. There is a burst of colour in the garden – nasturtiums and poppies (oh, the gorgeous poppies) return every year in striking new shades like little miracles. Soon, it will be the turn of the street trees to shimmer – the Semal in March, and the Gulmohur in April. While the gold of mustard flowers is tuning into pungent seed, the breeze carries the heady fragrance of limes about me.

It is also Spring in Kashmir. Where it snows, where winter stretches for endless months, the season eponymous with rebirth, surely holds a special joy and renewed hope as the delicate Nargis (Daffodils) emerges out of the frozen ground, through the cover of fresh fallen snow. The almonds trees bud out and bloom, and a cheer spreads through the valley. My mother talks of annuals spring picnics to badamwari (almond orchards). If Japan has cherry blossoms, Kashmir has her badams.

In my father’s garden are two mango trees. When the almonds blooms in Kashmir, the mango does the same in Delhi – covering itself in panicles of thousands of sweet smelling flowers – aam ki bohr. So with everything screaming Spring! I bring to you a Kashmir-edition of the Spring Table – a Picnic in the Garden.

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Every time I announce a workshop, I feel nervous – what if no one signs up? Then I push the nagging thoughts to the side and focus instead on planning what I want to cook and share. It is always exciting to plan a new menu, a new dish, or a new class. I enjoy the interactions and it is humbling when the same people show up again and again. It seems like a community of sorts – we get together, we share – ideas and thoughts, and enjoy the wholesome food we cook together. The stimulating conversations are a bonus.

Spring Table: Kashmir

Join me in my Mum’s kitchen to cook Mutsch, one of Kashmir’s iconic dishes. In true Pandit-style we will not be using any onions. And only a couple of pods of garlic (completely optional, btw). Let’s slow down to enjoy Delhi’s fleeting Spring, brew some kahwa, bring out a basket of breads, watch the flowers grow, spread the dastatkhan, and have ourselves a Picnic Brunch in the Garden.

If you are not into cooking that much, you may hang about in the garden, kick off your shoes, lie down under the mango tree, read a book, and simply enjoy a picnic. There will be plenty to eat for vegetarians too. Come, join us for a laidback brunch. Bring your friends, young and old. Children may accompany parents as long as parents are in control 🙂 .

Koshur Saal, 2018

Naralachi Wadi – Coconut Barfi

Nariyal Barfi

On Janmashtmi a few weeks back I followed tradition and prepared olya naralachi wadi – Maharashtrian style fresh coconut barfi. Its super-sweet North Indian version made with desiccated coconut and sugar was a childhood favourite. I gaze at the delicate pink coloured confections in a mithai shop display with much nostalgia but rarely proceed to buy.

In the Delhi of the previous century, fresh coconut was a little treat – a few wedges bought off the street vendor during your brief impatient wait at a traffic light. A whole coconut was bought only when (ragi) idlies were on the menu, to make the indispensable coconut chutney. Such occasions were few and far between. With marriage came a whole different way of cooking and an entirely new pantry in which fresh coconut, shaved on a traditional scraper like this, was always in stock.

Coconut, in both dry and fresh forms, is a bit of a staple in a Maharashtrian kitchen. Often sprinkled over vegetables towards the end of cooking, it may also be roasted or ground, or roasted and ground, or fire-roasted and smashed, or pan roasted and pounded, before adding to a dish. This amazing little fruit, maligned for a long time by the reductivist modern nutritional science for being mostly saturated fat, has climbed back up the popularity charts to reign supreme as something of a superfood. In India the coconut tree has always been revered as a Kalpavriksha, the divine, wish-fulfilling tree. Some of you may remember a little story (in the NCERT class IV textbook from the 70s) about a boy in Kerala and his coconut tree that provided him with everything from food and shelter to material for his boat.

Well, the fruit is as versatile as the tree it comes from. It can be used in myriad ways at all the different stages of its ripeness. The inherent sweetness in fresh coconut combined with its unique texture makes it an outstanding ingredient in desserts. Ice cream made with tender coconut flesh and sweet coconut milk is my current favourite. Fresh coconut sweetened with jaggery is at the heart of hundreds of sweets all over coastal and peninsular India – rolled into laddus, steamed into modaks, pitha, and kozhukattai, you will be hard pressed to pick a favourite.

This festive season try my new recipe for

Olya Naralachiwadi Wadi

Fresh Coconut Barfi

1 whole fresh coconut, scraped (or grated), about 2 cups loosely packed
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup grated khoya, loosely packed
3 green cardamoms, powdered
fresh or dried rose petals, to garnish

10" diameter thali or 9" square pan, greased with a few drops of ghee

Combine the fresh coconut shavings, sugar, and milk in a heavy bottom pan and cook on medium heat till the sugar dissolves. Continue to cook at medium heat till the mixture begins to thicken and the mixture starts to come together, about 15 minutes.

Add the grated khoya to the pan and continue to stir and cook till the mixture leaves the sides and starts moving as a cohesive mass, about 10-12 minutes.

Remove the pan from heat and mix in the cardamom powder.

Pour the hot mixture into a greased thali and spread it evenly with a spatula. Sprinkle with rose petals and leave to cool completely.

Cut with a sharp knife into squares or diamonds, transfer to a lidded container, and store in the refrigerator.

A Simple Marinara Sauce

Homegrown tomatoes

After a long gap I am harvesting tomatoes in sizable quantities this summer that require processing. Yes, the monkeys have been kind enough to share with us. I have been harvesting around 3/4 of a kilo every two days. The strategy is to harvest them the moment they start to show the slightest bit of colour. Sorry, no vine-ripened tomatoes for us, lest the monkeys get more than they leave for us. Left in the basket they ripen in a couple of days.

I have made two batches of marinara, and who knows, I just might succumb and make ketchup too. It’s just a tad too much work for the likes of me. But miracles do happen.

Marinara can be a hit and miss for many as the quality of tomatoes is inconsistent and most of the time we wing it rather than follow a recipe. Many of you messaged me on Instagram asking for my recipe. When I made the second batch I took care to measure the ingredients which there are few of. Go ahead and make it with the bounty of tomatoes currently in season. Don’t tell me you don’t have the time. 🙂 Make the most of the lock-down; it will be behind us soon and we be back to our sordid ways again.

I don’t fuss with peeling the tomato skins by blanching or processing the tomatoes through a food-mill. Lock-down or not, I have better things to do with my time. I didn’t plant any Italian basil this past winter so I had none for the sauce. Do add a few leaves if you can get some or use whatever fresh herbs you have available. Use dried herbs if you don’t have fresh ones. Make it your own. I used rosemary and marjoram from my garden and didn’t miss the basil at all. You can always add other herbs to your dish later.

Marinara Sauce

Continue reading A Simple Marinara Sauce