entering the land of the gods

a study abroad journey

Cooking Class #4

My professor, Bhavani, is such a sweetheart. Once again, she invited me over to join her and another student in more cooking lessons! How can I resist?

Lesson #1: Daal (Lentils)

Daal or lentils, is a staple dish to Indian cuisine. However, it is made differently throughout Indian because there are many types of lentils. In the south, yellow daal is used. Two varieties are commonly used: moong daal and toor daal. 

Begin with washing 2 cups of dry lentils in water. Put them in a small pressure cooker pot and fill with water until just covered. Then add:

  • 2 cups diced tomato (about 3-4 medium)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 tsp red chili powder

Pressure cook the mixture….I would say it was in there for about 10-15 minutes. The pot whistled about 4 times before Bhavani took it off the stove. The lentils should be soft with a slight bite and most of the water should be gone.


Then add more water, until thick but soupy. In another small frying pan add:

  • a touch of oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 whole red chilies
  • 1 small red onion, diced

Sautee the spices just slightly. Remove from heat and temper by adding a bit of the daal mixture. Then add all the spices to the daal pot. If desired, add chopped fresh curry leaves or cilantro and season with salt to taste. Voila! South Indian daal! 

Daal is best served over rice, of course. 🙂




Lesson #2: Bagara Baingan (Eggplant Curry)

This dish is a little more complicated because of the curry.

First prepare the eggplant. Look at these cute little things- they are so delicious!


Wash each one and cut the bottom into an X so that it is split into four pieces but still held together by the stem. Put them in a bowl of salt water so they do not brown. (We used about a dozen eggplant).


Meanwhile, make the curry. This process includes roasting almost all the ingredients in a dry pan to bring out the flavors. Add the following ingredients to a blender cup:

  • 1/2 cup peanuts, toasted
  • 1 small red onion, chopped and roasted (in a dry frying pan)
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted
  • 2 tsp mustard seeds + 2 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • 1 Tbsp ginger-garlic paste
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 Tbsp coconut powder (Bhavani makes this herself by drying out pieces of coconut and grinding it. Unsure of a substitution so I may have to go without in the U.S)
  • 1/2 cup chana* 

Combine in blender until thick, adding water as needed.


In a small bowl, cover a handful of tamarind with water to soak.

Start a large frying pan on the stove. Add a few Tbsp of oil along with and additional 1 tsp mustard seeds and 1 tsp cumin seeds, as well as 2 Tbsp Kaali “half” daal. (This is a black daal in which the outside of the lentil removed and the parcel is split in half. Therefore, it does not look black.) Brown in the oil and then add the curried paste. In tempering the paste, all of the raw smells and tastes are removed.

Come back to the bowl of tamarind, work the pods with your fingers to infuse the flavor with the water. Pour the fluid into the paste on the stove, careful not to include the tough tamarind pod. Add 1 tsp turmeric, 2 tsp salt, and enough water to make a gravy. Let simmer.

Heat a separate pan with oil. Remove the eggplant from the saltwater and drain. Add the eggplant to the hot oil and let it bubble until the eggplant is soft.


Then transfer the eggplant to the pan of curried gravy. Cover and let simmer. Once the oil begins to form on the top of the gravy, it is done! Give it a good stir and serve with roti.


The chota baingan (little eggplants) become so creamy and delicious! It is definitely one of my favorite dishes.

Another variation is to blend the paste but not temper it in a pan. Instead, “stuff” the eggplants with the thick marsala and then but the eggplant into the hot oil to fry.

*chana daal looks like a yellow split pea but is actually related to the garbanzo bean. It has a slightly puffy texture and can be eaten plain or cooked like a lentil/bean.



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2 thoughts on “Cooking Class #4

  1. Sandy McBride on said:

    Maria, your cooking lesson blogs leave me so hungry. Thank you for the details and photographs.

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