When Narayani Nayak wrote the book [Cookery Craft in mid-20th century], the average housewife in India spent almost the whole day in the kitchen, cooking from morning to night, for her husband and family…The day began with a cooked breakfast, carried on to a hot lunch and ended with a large dinner, interspersed with helpings of snacks and sweets as well.

Ways of cooking and eating have changed today. Most people can find time to cook just one or two main dishes and these must provide all the nutrients necessary for healthy living. Besides changing from the old measures of tola and seers to grams and cups, I have rewritten most of the recipes [from Cookery Craft] to increase or decrease the amount where necessary, suggested substitutes if the main ingredient is not easily available, shortened the preparation time by using modern appliances, and given alternatives to those who do not have the time or energy to start from scratch.


  • 6 cups boiling water
  • ½ cup masoor dal
  • 2 handfuls of green coriander leaves, finely-chopped
  • 1 marble-sized piece of tamarind
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp sugar

For Seasoning

  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • ½ tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 pod or 20 cloves garlic, skinned and crushed
  • 3-5 dried red chillies, broken into bits
  • A big pinch of asafoetida powder


  1. Wash the dal and cook in water for an hour, until it softens and the skins split. Strain through a fine wire strainer and discard the skins.
  2. Soak the tamarind in 2 tbsp of hot water. Strain the pulp and mix into the dal. Simmer on low heat.
  3. Add the coriander, sugar and salt. Mix well and keep cooking the dal. Add sufficient water so it measures 4 cups of dal.
  4. Heat the oil in a pan and add the seasoning ingredients in the order listed: mustard seeds, garlic cloves, red chillies and asafoetida. As the spices crackle and pop, pour the seasoning over the cooked dal. Serve hot with rice or chapatis. (This dal keeps well for several days.)
Jyotsna Shahane

Jyotsna Shahane

Jyotsna Shahane is a filmmaker with an interest in Indian food. In 2004 she started her blog The Cook's Cottage, one of a handful of bloggers on the subject at the time. She was chosen as one of the world's great food bloggers by Saveur, the gourmet food magazine. Jyotsna lives with her husband in Pune.

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