I have always dreaded day 2 or 3 of having house guests. I have already served them paneer or chole (substitute chicken curry if you are a non-vegetarian host), we have gone out to an expensive popular restaurant in town and we have approached what I fondly call the “home cooked food craving” day. These guests say things like, “My stomach is full” or “am feeling heavy” or “let’s have something simple“. Years of conditioning as a conscientious host doesn’t allow me to consider “simple” where menu for guests is concerned, so what do I do?

Scenario 2 is what can be termed as the “Atitthi tum kab jaoge” syndrome. In the film Atithi Tum Kab Jaoge, Konkana Sen Sharma plays this character who does not want to cook another elaborate meal for her husband’s uncle who is visiting. Her husband has woes of his own. He does not want to pay for another home delivery from the nearby hotel. They come up with a brilliant plan – Street food! Paresh Rawal, as the guest, gorges on scrumptious generously butttered Pav Bhaji. Then in all of his courteous good intention suggests that once they reach home they eat a “simple home cooked meal“. ughhh… you ate out and it did not satisfy the craving!! Lunch or dinner is still something to eat at home. Has this happened to you before?

Finally, we come to scenario 3. Let’s call it “Good old college days“. Anything could trigger this nostalgia. A guitar.. that makes you sigh..”In college, he played the guitar for me“. Or you see a dhabha or a random canteen.. “even Rs 20 used to buy such a delicious meal..” No tension of preparing food, and if you were low on cash, trying to find someone to “treat” you. Even Dal Roti on a roadside dhabha becomes a memory cherished from that secret college road trip. Your taste of freedom. Your chance to star in your own Dill Chahta Hai journey!

Which brings me to this really simple Dal recipe. It’s so simple that I wouldn’t even have written about it. Only, there was the scenarios 1, 2 and 3 that made for good story telling and begged for a recipe post in the making.

For the Dal (a combination of one or all) :

Split Green Moong Dal

Channa Dal

Toor Dal (This is the yellow one)

Urad Dal chilka (The black one)

Masoor Dal (This is the orange one)



You can’t go wrong with dal when someone says they want a simple meal or you have less time or energy. Or if, like me, you hate grocery shopping and have nothing fresh in your kitchen. Alright, I don’t hate shopping in its entirety. In fact, if I’m able to find a discount or a coupon to use next time I hit the shops on sites like Raise (see here – https://www.raise.com/coupons/walmart), then just try and stop me heading down to my local Walmart and using them! Who doesn’t love a bargain?

Soak any combination of the various kinds of dal listed above for half hr or less. You can also use Channa Dal only and still manage to get lots of compliments.

Chop tomatoes to boil along with the dal. You can add the garam masala either whole or after grinding it. Add a teaspoon full of kasuri methi, a dash of haldi and salt to taste. The trick is to let it cook for atleast 7-8 whistles on medium heat so the dal is nice and well cooked. You can mash it with the serving spoon and keep the consistency thick for true dhabha like authenticity.

Then heat ghee (refined oil if your guest is very serious about eating plain food!). Put dried red chillies, cut green chillies, jeera and red chilli powder and allow it to crackle. The tadka is ready…

Garnish with a sprinkle of coriander. Add a dash of lemon to the bowl for a zesty freshness while you serve. It’s dal (ya that’s my simple recipe..) after all. So you can serve it with pulao or even plain rice and roti. Maybe some salad for the true dhabha appeal.


For the Tadka:


Red Chilli powder


Kasuri Methi


Green Chillies

Dried red Chillies

Bay Leaves