Cooking with Pressure 💨
Navdhanya Daal — A Lentil Story
“Navdhanya Daal” more or less translates to “A Nine Lentil Curry”
Tryst at the grocery store.
A couple of weeks ago I saw a packet of Navdhanya Mix — a mix of 9 varieties of lentils — on the shelf at my local Indian grocery store. I was not sure what I could make with it, but I knew that a pressure cooker will be involved.
In fact, here is a recipe for how I cook kidney beans (I apply the same basic method in this story):
Making Rajma — With Pressure🔥💨
Wikipedia calls it, “… kidney beans in a thick gravy with many Indian whole spices.”
But I never mix lentils, and certainly never nine of them in one go. But the opportunity was hard to resist. So, without thinking twice, I popped it into my shopping cart and sort of ran with it.
I came home all excited and told my wife about it, and I got a big fat “NO,” on making it. Clearly, mixing lentils is an unfamiliar proposition — for both the foodie and the cook.
But did that dampen my spirits? No, it did not. And so, a plan was hatched.
A covert, 12-hour Soak
Next day morning, I woke up early and got out a cup of the nine-lentil mix, and got to cleaning it. After a couple of rounds of cleaning the lentils, I was ready to pour-in about 4 cups of water and leave it for a day-long soak. But just before the soak, I saw them in their glistening, colorful splendor…
They actually looked pretty amazing. But, time was running out and my wife was about to wake up. I quickly submerged them in 4 cups of water, and left the lentils to soak in a quiet corner of the kitchen. It was 8 am in the morning.
Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Backup Delicacy…
By 7pm that night, I was ready to take the lentils out of the soak. But I also realized that I needed a backup dish — you know, in case the lentils tanked. So, I made a batch of my roasted bitter gourd:
Roasting the Bitterness out of a Bitter Gourd?
My experiments with Karelā (Bitter Gourd) continue.
My wife loves roasted bitter gourd — especially how I roast them as spicy, thin slices. On the very real chance that the lentils failed to impress her, I would have the roasted karelā. So with the gourd roast as backup — which I started making first, along with a side of rice— I marched on with the lentils.
Cooking the Nine Lentils Mix
By the time the bitter gourd and rice entered the oven and pressure cooker respectively, it was 8pm. I then drained the soaking lentils and they were certainly looking rich and puffy …
… they clearly soaked up the water, pretty well! Below are some shots of the lentils before/after the soak. The chickpeas and kala channa visibly soaked the water well. This was turning out nicely so far.
Spicing the Lentils…
The next step was to spice the lentils. So I added some red chili, turmeric, salt (to taste), ginger powder, garlic powder and garam masala. You get these at any Indian grocery store — unless you are in India, in which case you get it in any grocery store 😅
Pressure cooking 💨
Once spiced, I transferred the spiced mixture into a pressure cooker and added about 4 cups of water, and set the stove’s heat to medium high and let it cook just the way I cook kidney beans. Key bit for me: never fear over cooking lentils; they hold-up nicely under heat and steam.
Making the Tomato Purée
While the cooker did its business, I moved to make the tomato purée. Again, the concept here is pretty simple: cut the tomatoes into chunks so that they retain water, and toss them into a pan with hot oil (after crackling mustard seeds and cumin in the hot oil). The heat causes the water in the tomatoes to burst out and in turn cook the tomatoes into a nice, thick purée.
Mixing the Purée and Lentils
Meanwhile, after about 6–7 whistles of the pressure cooker, I turned off the heat on the cooker, and opened it up to see if it had cooked. Yep! I overcooked the lentils! But then again, I was no longer in any danger of giving me or my wife a tummy ache because of accidentally undercooked beans. (The threat is real.)
After that I poured in the tomato purée into the cooker, and closed the cooker for a couple of more whistles. Two whistles (of the pressure cooker) later, I turned off the heat; and released the steam from the cooker. The tomato purée ended up mixing well with lentils, to make a nice thick gravy!
Dinner is served: Nine Lentil Mix on a bed of Rice!
I have to say, it turned out really swell. The mixture of so many beans/lentils actually created a balance of taste, where no single lentil was over-powering. And my spice levels were not too much either. So all told, a subtle, tasty protein bomb.
My wife liked it too (phew! 😅). The roasted bitter gourd certainly helped (she said as much). But we thoroughly enjoyed the lentils. There was enough left over for the next couple of days — the following two workday lunches were pretty much taken care of.
One of the coolest thing about this cook: I knew exactly what to do with this mix of ingredients, even though I never really looked up a recipe. I am not sure that “navdhanya daal”, with those exact mix of lentils, is even a thing.
I hope you liked reading about this cooking experience. Did you have a fun experience cooking something new (or old)? Let me know in the comments below! I would love to learn about it!
In the meantime, you now have another way of cooking lentils — as a mixed bag! Try it — it’s good👌🏽😋