Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Dee-Day (3) : A special guest post….

Many decades ago, my life came to be haunted by a devil-in-disguise. He broke my carefully-kept toys, tore my cherished books and ate up all the chocolate that I’d been saving “for later”. All I did was cry lodes of tears on daddy’s shoulders as he tried to comfort me by saying “now your toy (or book or candy) is gone. What can we do. You stop crying and I’ll get you more….”. As far back  as I can think , he got away with everything.

And yet, my most vivid memories are those of seeing him walk for the first time. Or leading him to his kindergarten class. Or him seeking me out in school with tears in his eyes because someone had been bullying him. My dad told me that he named him Amitouj - the celestial bed rest that Brahma reclines on - because he was going to be my pillar of comfort when he grew up. Somewhere along the way, I named him Divyu - because I wanted his name to have the same initials as mine. 

Today, my younger brother is still a devil. But I have seen his comforting side when I was hurting the most. He’s all grown up. But he’s still my first baby.

In 2009; on my vacation to his place in Abu Dhabi, my mom told me that he’d become very good at cooking. She said, “some things, he cooks even better than me”. At her request, he made me a dinner - his signature “tadka wali dahi”, as my mom called it. Since then, I’ve been pestering him for the recipe. Today, he’s decided to share it with me; and you. Read on ahead….from the mouth of the devil himself :-)!

The journey to my culinary expertise started in year 1999 when I moved from Delhi to Mumbai. Taking national integration to core I moved in with 3 other gentlemen: one from Bengal – representing East, One from Andhra Pradesh – representing South, and the other from Sholapur on the west coast of India.  I completed the missing link from North – Delhi.

We were all gluttons but could not afford to "fine dine" everyday at the local Chinese stall.  Even the strongest amongst us couldn’t  survive on Vada pav or bun Maska for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We learnt early on that buying raw ingredients and try preparing food at home would be the cheapest; but the trouble was no one knew how to cook.  That was the beginning of experimentation. Soon we’d established ourselves as "culinary chefs" amongst friends! 

Our arrangement made each of us the “sad household chef” for one week in a month. This cycle also introduced me to some exotics like fish eggs and fish head dal; not because I liked it but because Bengali chef-of -the week had spent our  weekly budget on Fish! Over the period of time I perfected some, and messed some. My housemates and and "experimental guniea pigs” changed from my friends to my children. I learned to cook the way kids liked and tried to keep alive my interest in regional cuisine of my past.

A few year later, in Abu Dhabi (UAE), I was intrigued by Indians from the southern tip of Kerala,  who had multitude of vegetarian dishes;  but the base of curry was all yogurt. That got me thinking and I mixed South indian spices with those from North India and created this jhol dahi. My kids and wife love it accompanied with onion bhurji or simple omelet.

This dish even has the seal of approval of my mom. She always asked me to prepare it whenever she wanted to eat light.  


2 Tbsp of Oil or Ghee
1 Pinch Hing ( depending upon which one you use I use the one I got from Delhi, if you have that yellow box on put about 3gms)
1 Pinch Jeera and
1 Pinch Mustard seeds
1 Tbsp Dhuli urad Dal
1 Tbsp Chana Dal
500 gms to 1 Kg Yogurt
Salt to taste
2 dried Red chillies full
1 Pinch Turmeric ( depending upon how dark yellow you want)
2-3 Cups onions finely chopped.
3 green chilies seeded and chopped finely
4 -5 sprigs cilantro chopped finely.

Method :

  1. Soak The dals in Water either overnight or atleast 4 hours in advance
  2. Mix Yogurt with salt as per taste. And whisk
  3. Heat Oil in a sauce pan and when its smoking reduce the flame to low and drop your two red chillies.
  4. When they start changing color put the pinch of hing.  When it has sizzled increase the flame to medium heat 
  5. Drain and add your dals.  Sauté till they are nicely roasted (Medium Brown) and water has evaporated.
  6. Now, add jeera and mustard seeds once they change color, add onions and fry till translucent 
  7. Finally, add turmeric and fry till cooked.  
  8. After this, to bring some freshness, I add finely chopped green chillies and coriander fry lightly till they release their aroma 
  9. Now add water and bring to boil. Once water is bubbling turn off the gas and add you premix salt and yoghurt stir 
  10. Adjust seasoning to taste. 
  11. Incase the Jhol is still too thick just add hot water to reach desired consistency.   

My two cents: I love this Jhol. You’ve got to try it and see.