It's interesting how for most of us, comfort food has similar characteristics. It usually dates back to childhood - something that our mothers or grandmothers made, for instance. It is usually simple to make. The taste of it tends to be quite simple, too. I can't think of anyone, for instance, who claims that Bagaarey Baingan is their comfort food, great as that tastes. I guess it has to do with the memories of a simpler time that comfort food brings back - a time when other people were responsible for us, rather than us having to be responsible for other people, a time when a hug and a kiss were enough to cure any 'boo-boo'...
Usually when I cook I like to get all experimental and try exotic dishes and unusual ingredients. That is fun in its own way but this weekend, when our cook was off on Sunday, I just didn't have the energy to be all that creative. Plus we'd had a pretty filling breakfast of idlis with huli and onion chutney, with holige from Bangalore, so light and simple seemed the way to go. I decided to rustle up a typical meal from my mother's house - something that my ajji was partial to as well - good old Hesarabele Kattu with beans palya. Easy to make, the two dishes went down surprisingly well with my husband and our fussy son (my daughter, of course, eats almost anything, including black olives and whole green chillies).
1 cup hulled (yellow) Moong Dal
1 handful grated fresh coconut
1/2 inch ginger, sliced into fine slivers
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 green chillies, chopped fine
Handful curry leaves
1 tsp oil
Salt to taste
Juice of 1 lemon
1. Cook the hulled moong dal in a pressure cooker or a pan with 2 cups of water until well done.
2. In a wok, heat the oil.
3. Add the turmeric and the cumin seeds. Wait till the cumin seeds get toasty.
4. Add the curry leaves and wait till they turn crisp.
5. Add the grated ginger and stir, for 1-2 minutes.
6. Add the tadka to the dal and top with the grated coconut. If you like, you can also garnish with chopped coriander. Add salt to taste.
7. At the table, just before serving, squeeze a dash of lemon into each cup of dal. (Don't do this into the whole dal, else when you reheat it will add a bitter taste).
1/2 kg beans, topped, tailed and cut into 1 cm segments, and immersed in water
2-3 green chillies
1 tsp black mustard seeds
2 tsp oil
1 tsp urad dal
Handful curry leaves
Salt to taste
Handful grated fresh coconut
1. Heat oil in a wok. Add the mustard seeds and wait till they pop.
2. Add the urad dal and wait for it to turn pale brown.
3. Add the green chillies and curry leaves, and wait for 1 minute.
4. Add the green beans and stir.
5. Add a sprinkling of water and cover the dish, leaving the heat on medium.
6. Cook for 5-6 minutes, until the beans are tender but still have a bit of bite to them.
7. Uncover and add the salt, and cook until all the water, if any, evaporates.
8. Turn off heat and top with the coconut.
Both these dishes taste good served hot with plain, hot rice or with phulkas. Sometimes, if the beans are a bit older, I add a tbsp of sugar to the vegetable to get that sweet flavour which is natural to young beans. The dash of lemon is the ingredient that perks up the otherwise ordinary dal. You can also add Tori ( ridge gourd/ heerekai)to the dal, cut into 1 inch segments and boiled in lightly salted water). You can also substitute one of the green chillies for a dried red chilli in the Palya, for added bite.