To many of us, the very mention of the term yogurt leaves an acerbic trail down the throat. Not exactly conducive, one might say, for conjuring up images of bustling stalls along a promenade in Venice, with gleeful girls in loud-colored clothes, beckoning weary travelers with tall orders of fruity frozen yogurt nestled in cozy cups. And possibly not what Metchnikoff intended when he argued for the usefulness of yogurt in longevity and healthfulness in his book, The Prolongation of Life: Studies of an Optimistic Philosophy. Still, there’s a whole cult-following out there devoted to the consumption of this curdled milk – Lactobacillus bulgaricus – in various forms. Right from Austria to India, from itty-bitty toddlers to those bordering on senility, yogurt has its fans and chockfull of merits. Right from King Francois I’s yogurt remedy issued by his Jewish doctor as recorded in Larousse Gastronomique, to Homer’s yogurty repasts recounted in Illiad, this miracle food has clocked successfully in and out of many a tome and home too. Whether it has been touted as a nerve-relaxer or an astringent, this le lait de vie eternelle (milk of eternal life) comes with scores of health benefits. Be it the sour-spiked starry edge it brings to a bowl of dip in your appetizer tray, or the heightened punch of sweetness it packs into your dessert bowl, yogurt is exceptionally versatile and to account for its multi-functionality in whatever minuscule way, we’re putting forth a couple of yummy yogurty recipes for you to serve up and savor.
First up is a light lentil soup from the mountains of Himachal, a family favorite that makes for an interesting change of pace from the regular pot of dal. Whole moong beans are simmered with creamy yogurt and a gentle tadka of slow-cooked onions and mild spices; we find that the hardest part of making this dish is to avoid overcooking the lentils.
Pahadi Moong Dal
½ Cup Whole moong beans, with skin
2 Teaspoons ghee
1 Teaspoon mustard seeds
A pinch of asafoetida
1 Small onion, thinly sliced
½ Cup thick yoghurt/curds
Salt to taste
¼ Teaspoon cayenne/red chilli powder
¼ Teaspoon turmeric powder
To finish –
- ¼ Teaspoon cardamom powder
- ¼ Teaspoon dry ginger powder
- ¼ Teaspoon powdered fennel seeds
- 1 Tablespoon thinly-sliced coconut or sliced almonds
Wash and drain the dal. Add about 2 cups of water and cook until tender but not mushy. Set aside.
Meanwhile, in a saucepan, melt the ghee and add the mustard seeds. Let the seeds sputter and sprinkle the asafoetida. Slide in the onions. Cook on a low heat until the onions are soft but not browned. Pour the cooked dal into the pan.
Whisk the salt, red chilli powder and turmeric powder into the yoghurt until smooth. Take the dal off the heat and slowly stir in the spiced yoghurt. Return the pan to a low flame and heat through, stirring often to avoid curdling. To finish add the remaining spices and the coconut or almonds. Add a sizzle while serving with a tadka of hot ghee and a dash of red chilli powder, if desired.
- Pahadi means “of the mountains”. This dal is a comforting winter dish, made during the snow-packed months when there are hardly any fresh vegetables or herbs available. Thus, no tomatoes or coriander leaves are used here, instead, pantry staples like spices and yogurt give it a distinctive tangy and aromatic taste.
- It is important that the lentils not be overcooked. If you’re using a pressure cooker, you may want to switch it off after one whistle and then simmer without pressure until the dal is done.
And our Yogurty Moong Dal is off to –