My Dad is an excellent cook, although he doesn't usually make the regular stuff that my Mom makes. He is always into trying something different and that too his own ideas, and, more often than not, it will turn out into a great dish. Since he doesn't follow any recipe, it would be difficult for him to reproduce something that we liked a lot. Every single time, the same dish will come out with a slightly different flavor than the previous time. His rasams were always a disaster though ;-). Or may be, it could be that we were used to my Mom's rasams and were unable to adapt to the flavor change in my Dad's. Nevertheless, although my Dad cooks only when he is in the mood to do so, he displays great culinary skills each time, given that he hasn't had anyone teach/tell him how to cook. So, I asked my Dad one day the recipe for his side dish that goes very well with idli, dosai and chappathi and he gave me a whole bunch of variations. Of course, I decided to try those one at a time and here is the first one.
Ingredients (about 2 - 3 servings):
Onions - 2 medium sized finely chopped
Tomatoes - 1.5 medium sized finely chopped
Cooking oil - about 2 tablespoons
Mustard seeds - 1 teaspoon
Urad dhal - 1 teaspoon
Channa dhal (optional) - 1 teaspoon
Fennel seeds - 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon
Curry leaves - a few
Green chillies - 2 to 3 cut into small pieces
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Red chilli powder - 1 teaspoon
Besan (chick pea flour) (optional) - 1 teaspoon mixed with very little water
Salt to taste
Cilanto - 3 to 4 strands finely chopped
1. Heat oil in a deep vessel and pop mustard seeds. Add fennel seeds, urad dhal, channa dhal, green chillies, curry leaves and turmeric after the mustard pops and wait for the dhals to turn light golden brown in color.
2. Add the chopped onions to step 1, fry until they turn golden brown in color and then add the tomatoes and fry some more until they get cooked/mashed.
3. To step 2, add red chilli powder and salt and about 1/4 cup (using a measuring cup) or less of water and bring the mixture to a boil. Boil for about 5 - 7 minutes and if you feel it is watery, you can add a teaspoon of besan diluted with little water, boil for 2 more minutes and then turn off the stove.
4. Garnish with chopped cilantro.
The fennel seeds are the key ingredient to this dish. This can also be had with curd rice (it may sound weird, but it tastes good :-)). You could even throw in some finely chopped veggies to make it more nutritious.