Of late, this is one dish which has been highlighted a lot in all restaurants in Kolhapur. Kolhapur is a city in the south of Maharashtra- famous for the Mahalaxmi temple, this place is also famous for its two important gifts to Maharashtrian cuisine – the ‘taambda rassa‘ (red curry) and the ‘paandhra rassa‘ (the white curry). In the past two years, I have been travelling to Kolhapur quite a bit as it also happens to be where my in-laws live. On one such visit I happened to sample this lentil curry called ‘Aakkha Masoor’ (whole lentils) in a local khaanaval (eatery). I realized that I have been making this dish since a long time but never knew that it was a specialty of this region. Now, whether this lentils curry is atypical of Kolhapur is apparently controversial, but there is absolutely no controversy about this being a really tasty and wholesome (plus healthy) dish which has to be savored with hot phulkas or poli or steaming rice.
This dish is not supposed to be a runny curry but more like a moist lentils gravy. The important point is that the lentils (masoor) need to be cooked just right. If overcooked, it will become a mashed mix and that is no good! You need to be able to see distinct whole lentils but which are well cooked and are not like eating tiny pebbles when you put them in your mouth! Okay, have I made it sound like a huge deal? It isn’t really. 🙂 The task of cooking the lentils is easy if you have a pressure cooker, just add 2 parts of water to 1 part whole masoor and pressure cook it for ten minutes (2 whistles of the Indian pressure cooker). If you don’t have a pressure cooker at your disposal, then soak the lentils overnight in about double the quantity of water. The next morning, drain the lentils and add them to the onions and chilli mix, add 1.5 times the water and cover and cook. So, here’s the recipe.
You will need:
1 cup whole lentils (whole masoor), cooked as given above
1 large onion, chopped
4 green chillies, chopped (or more if you can handle the heat)
1/2 tsp whole mustard seeds
1 tbsp oil
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp red chilli powder (kolhapuri curries are famous for the red chilli content in them)
6 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1/2 inch ginger, minced
4-5 curry leaves (optional)
salt to taste
1 tsp sugar (optional)
– Heat the oil in a cast iron kadhai or any other thick bottomed vessel. Add the mustard seeds to it and let them crackle a bit. Next add the turmeric powder, curry leaves,green chillis, ginger, garlic and the onion. Saute till the onion is cooked soft. Now add the red chilli powder and salt and mix well.
– Add the cooked lentils to the onions and mix well. Add the sugar, cover and cook for five minutes on low heat. Serve hot.
– In case you have lentils soaked overnight, add the drained lentils to the cooked onions and mix well. Then add water (1.5 cups of water to 1 cup raw lentils), cover and cook. Add some more water if you feel the lentils are under-cooked.