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

Apple Soup

applesoup 01

It got nippy and there it stayed, just nippy. Kashmiri people divide winter into three sub-seasons associated with the intensity of the cold. Right now, we are in the middle of the 40-day period of Chillai Kalan, the harshest part of winter that starts on the night of the winter solstice. It is followed by a 20-day long Chillai Khurd, and then it peters out into a brief 10-day Chillai Baccha, before the herald of Spring in March. Many of our festivals and rituals, as seen in our winter celebrations, are closely tied to a shared history with Persian Zoroastrian traditions.

In Punjab Lohri celebrations, with the ceremonial communal bonfire, mark the coldest night of Winter. Lohri, which was two days ago, on the 13th, came and went with nary a shiver. We were still walking around in the lightest of sweaters here in Delhi. It was far from the coldest night of the winter it is expected to be.

But, the morning after, the clouds rolled in. It hasn’t rained but the Western Disturbances, as they are called, have brought in some chill and the resultant cheer, to Delhi-winters. There should be snow in the mountains too!


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Gavar (Cluster Beans) with Peanuts


It’s great when you discover a new way with regular ingredients.  It’s even better when the ingredients involved are few and the recipe is effortless.  My friend SK, who knows my love for Southern Indian food, is often my guide and shares new ideas or leads me to lesser known food-blogs that highlight the kind of food I like to cook.  She is a writer and is constantly engaging the characters, such as you and me, around her.  These ‘encounters’ make her a treasure trove of traditional recipes as well.  During one such chat with me, she sketched the dish the maid had put together for her lunch that day.  A basic, peasant-style approach to food, it involved the ubiquitous red chilli as the only spice.  The addition of roasted peanuts, of course, adds to the nutritional content while providing a hint of refinement to what is otherwise a truly minimalistic dish.  It is almost as if you were deconstructing the Maharashtrian-style gavar-bhaji, and trying to retain what is absolutely essential.  The two dishes are similar, yet it is clear that the peasant-style one has been pared down to its essence. Frugal, but, full of flavour.

The finished dish can work as a side to any Indian meal, or even as a salad.  You could replace cluster beans with another vegetable – french beans, peas, cabbage – endless combinations.  Or mix it into cooked rice, as Sangeeta said she did, with some additional oil or ghee, and you have a one-dish pulav/stir-fried rice that is perfect for a packed lunch.  It has won gavar-haters over to this side! Continue reading Gavar (Cluster Beans) with Peanuts

Pickled Grapes

grapes BW

Hot, hot. It’s a dry sauna in here! You could actually fry an egg on the sidewalk. And yet some things, native plants and creatures, thrive in this heat. At the moment, I am functioning with hardly any house-help. Kumari is away (for more than a month now) to her village in Bihar; Babloo, the presswala (for those who may not know, the chap who wields the “press” or iron, to iron our clothes!), also from Bihar, went away for a few weeks to make the most of his children’s summer vacations (he got back this morning!). He was also filling in for Chandu, who comes weekday mornings to wipe down the cars. So, I have had my hands more than full. The gardener, though in town, was a bit down in spirits, and there I was, watering the plants every other scorching evening. Yes, it doesn’t cool down even in the evenings. It become less hot, but never cool, till the monsoons arrive. No wonder we make so much song and dance about the Monsoon Season; yes, it is its own season – Saavan – in these parts, and much celebrated in Indian literature, paintings, and music.

On that first evening when I picked up the hose, I also decided to turn the pots to get even light on the less exposed sides. And, there was this tiny nest in the Ficus in the corner! The mystery of the chirpy sunbirds tailorbirds every morning explained! I rotated the plant back, so that the nest continued to stay hidden. A few days later, I became the anxious “carer” not having spotted the parents birds all afternoon and believing the nest to have been abandoned. I took a peek, and there they were, four tiny hatchlings in the nest! Google came to the rescue as always and I researched on how many hours hatchlings can survive without parent attention. I learned, with a heavy heart, that it is best to leave them alone and not care for them even if they have been abandoned. Ah, but come evening, there she was, the mother tailorbird! All was well after all. I resolved to take no more peeks lest I scare the parents to abandon their babies.

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