Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dhokar dalna.......fried lentil squares in a gravy.

Our family has a temple devoted to "madan mohan" in North Kolkata. Apart from all festivals associated with Lord Krishna,we used to have a decent sized  Durga pujo in the temple."Dhokar dalna" was one thing that would always be cooked along with the rest of the " pujor bhog".During lunch time I would keep a vigilant watch for the serving of this scrumptious curried fritters........so enticing in it's rich red gravy.At home the "dhokar dalna" would never have the same taste or the look..I used to believe it was the miracle of God that all the cooking that day would taste so heavenly.Now after having cooked quite a bit ,i realize a big part for everything tasting so delicious was the fervor and enthusiasm of all "kakimas-jethima and thakumas"(aunts and grannies).They would make sure that all the red chilies,cumin ,coriander and spices that needed to be ground were freshly ground.You can not beat the taste of "bata masala"(freshly made spice paste) with "guro masala"(store bought dry powder spices).They would ensure that there was abundant supply of Ghee (clarified butter) to fry and curry things in.The recipe for "dhokar dalna" that I am sharing now is with 1 cup of refined oil and dry spices out of the packet.It makes enough for 8 adults and a few kids(assuming that you will have a couple more side dishes to go along.) Of course you can upgrade the recipe in taste and look by grinding your own fresh spice paste and using more ghee.I love it when the red ghee floats up to the top...very inviting :-)
Most dhoka recipes use "cholar daal" ie chana daal but my thakuma used a mix of "matar daal"(Split yellow peas) and "cholar daal".I have compared the taste. I have taken feedback from Daddy D and we both agree that the "matar daal" and "cholar daal"  mix tastes much better.It's lighter in taste and feel and absorbs the spices in the gravy better.
Soak these daals overnight.
Matar daal-1 cup
Cholar daal-1/2 cup

The next day grind the soaked lentils with
Ginger-1/2 inch piece
Green chili-2
Make sure that you drain out the excess water from the soaked lentils.If you need additional water for grinding add by spoonfuls.

For making the dhokas
Oil-2 + 1/2 tablespoon for greasing plate.
Cumin powder-1 teaspoon
Turmeric-1/2 teaspoon
Salt-to taste
In a pan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add the ground lentils.Keep stirring.The water will evaporate and we will try to achieve a putty like consistency.Add in the cumin powder,turmeric and salt and keep stirring till the  lentil mixture starts leaving the sides of the pan and starts accumulating on the stirrer like a sticky putty.Now take out the lentil mixture and pour it in a place which has been greased with 1/2 table spoon of oil and pat it to level.Allow it to cool for 30-45 mins.
Now run a knife through and cut pieces of the "dhoka" squares,diamonds whatever suits your fancy.Separate the cut "dhokas" carefully.
In about a cup of oil fry these cut "dhoka" pieces a light golden color.Set aside the fried "dhokas".

For the "jhol" or curry
Bay leaves-1 Big
Green cardamom-4
Cinnamon-2 sticks
Tomatoes-1 cup chopped
Ginger paste-1 teaspoon
Cumin powder-1 tablespoon
Coriander powder-1 tablespoon
Red chili powder-1/2 tablespoon
Turmeric powder-1/2 teaspoon
Sugar-1 teaspoon
Ghee -1 tablespoon
Garam masala powder-1 teaspoon
Warm Water -3 cups
Salt-to taste
Oil-whatever is remaining from frying the "dhokas" will do.If you want to add more,it's perfectly fine.

Heat the remaining oil from frying the dhokas and add the sugar.Let the sugar turn a little orange and add in the bay leaf,green cardamom,cinnamon and cloves.Keep the heat low to avoid the sugar or the whole spices from burning up.Now add the chopped tomatoes and the ginger paste.Let the tomatoes melt and let the oil separate.Now make a paste of the cumin powder,coriander powder,turmeric powder and chili powder with a couple of teaspoons of water.Add this paste to the pan.Mix well and let the spices cook with the tomatoes.Now add some salt and 3 cups of warm water.Let the curry come to a nice boil....now add in the fried "dhokas".After the last dhoka goes into the curry switch off the heat.Now add the tablespoon of ghee and the teaspoon of garam masala and put a lid on the pan. Allow the "dhoka" to absorb the spices and the gravy.After 15 minutes your dhoka jhol will be good to eat.We like ours with rice -plain white or pilaf.

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