Spiced Lentil Cakes in a gravy
I am a lot like Big Sis S(BSS) or is it the other way round ? Whatever it is we both try to avoid things that are hard. Force us in a difficult situation and we will be fine coping with it and coming out stronger but given a choice we will try to avoid the difficult route.
Take BSS. She started Piano lessons some time last year. She loved it, practiced with diligence, sailed through her lessons as if she was a musical genius and played at the drop of a hat. Things started changing couple of weeks back. She started giving excuses around practice time, musical enthusiasm hit all time low and a marked drop in excitement on lesson days was noticed. A talk with her Piano teacher revealed what I already knew. Lessons had gotten harder and as Little Miss BSS was not able to sail through them as easily as on a cloud, she was no longer as enthusiastic about them.
We had a little talk, that kind of thing comes easy to me, I love it when I am at the giving end of such talks. Things seems to be better now, it is not that hard to motivate a 6 year old after all.
Take Me next. Dhokar Dalna, the master piece of Bengali Cuisine has eluded me all these years. I love Dhokar Dalna, to eat that is, to cook, I always dismissed it as "too difficult". Ok, I think I did it just once but that just reinforced my belief that it took too much time and oil to be deemed worth repeatable in my kitchen. However BSS's example triggered me. If that little girl could go back and do her "Lets Rock" or whatever sheet music several times over, I could at least try Dhokar Dalna once more.
So I made it today, I wouldn't say total success, there are these small nuances that need to be taken care of next time. I am yet to get the right texture for the lentil paste to make the cakes and some of my dhokas or lentil cakes were cracking which shouldn't happen. But I think I did conquer my fear. After all my three decades and more of existence has taught me that "Done is better than perfect"(quoted from Scott Allen), at least some times.
Dhokar Dalna, is one of the pillars of Niramish(Vegetarian) Bengali Cuisine, just like Shukto. The lightly spiced lentil cakes or dhoka are fried and then simmered in a gravy made with tomatoes and ginger, spiced with cumin and coriander. This dish traditionally is a purely satvik dish, sans any onion or garlic like most Bengali Niramish(vegetarian) dishes. Bengali widows were not allowed to eat onion or garlic and the Bengali vegetarian cuisine is mostly their contribution, that explains why it is satvik.
The dhokas are such a delight and the gravy is so fragrant that you wouldn't even miss onion or garlic in here. Enjoyed best with plain white rice, the dhoka sure brings joy, though it actually means "to cheat".
Get this recipe in my Book coming out soon. Check this blog for further updates.
To Make the Dhoka or the Lentil Cakes
Soak 1& 1/2 cup of Cholar Dal/Chana Dal/Bengal Gram in water overnight
Drain the water and grind
the lentils + 6 green chili + little salt
to a fine paste. Add little water as required for grinding
Heat Oil in a Kadhai/Frying Pan. Temper the Oil with
3/4 tsp of Whole Cumin seeds/Jeera,
a pinch of Asafoetida/Hing,
1/2 tsp of sugar,
and 1& 1/2 tsp of Ginger paste.
Add the lentil paste/ground dal to this and cook until the mix comes off the sides clean. The dal should be cooked so that is moist and soft but not runny or hard. Note: This step is really tricky.You need to stir vigorously else the paste will stick to the sides and you need to be careful to remove the moisture without making it hard. Add little oil as needed to avoid sticking.
Smear a flat plate with oil and pour the soft dal mix on this. While it is warm, pat lightly with your hands to form a flat, slightly raised round structure
With a knife make squares or diamond shapes
Heat some more Oil and fry the lentil cakes till golden brown on both sides. Take care that they do not break
To Make the Gravy
Heat Oil in a Kadhai or any other thick bottomed pan
Fry 1 potato chopped in eights till golden, remove and keep aside.
Temper the Oil with
2 small Bay leaf/Tej Patta,
3/4 tsp of Cumin Seeds/Jeera
and a pinch of Asafoetida/Hing
Add 1 tomato finely chopped and 1 tsp of freshly grated ginger. Saute till tomato is reduced to a pulp and there is no raw smell.
In 1 tsp of Yogurt, mix
1/2 tsp of Corriander Powder, 1/2 tsp of Roasted cumin Powder(or Regular Cumin Powder) 1/2 tsp of Red Chili Powder
and a little turmeric to make a fine paste.
Add this paste to the Kadhai. and fry the masala at low heat.
Add the potatoes and about 1&1/2 cups of water. Add salt to taste and cover and cook till potatoes are done.
Adjust for any seasonings, add a little sugar. Add about 1/4 tsp of Garam Masala and 1/2 tsp of Ghee and gently mix.Now gently slide in the pieces of dhoka or the fried lentil cakes. Simmer for couple of minutes to let the dhoka soak up the gravy. Note:If like mine some of your dhokas are cracking do not add them to the gravy, rather place them on the serving dish and pour the gravy on them.
Serve with hot white rice.
Other Dhoka Dalna around the Blogosphere with little variations:
Dhokar Dalna but with onion and garlic -- from One Hot Stove
Dhokar Dalna from Ahaar
Dhokar Dalna from SJ
Indrani's Dhokar Dalna
Sudeshna's Dhokar Dalna