Let’s start at the very beginning…

.. a very good place to start.

For most Indian cooks, Varan- bhaat or daal-rice is the simplest meal to put together. Every house has a favourite plain dal recipe. Here’s mine.

Varan bhaat toop

This recipe serves 2.

The main ingredients are:

  • 1/2 cup Toor dal (also known as Pigeon peas)
  • Water
  • Hing, a pinch
  • 1/2 teaspoon + 1/4 teaspoonTurmeric
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon Jaggery/Gur (optional)

Additional equipment:

The important thing is to use a pressure cooker as toor dal does not cook very well when boiled like some other lentils.


  1. Wash the toor dal well.
  2. In a pressure cooker, add 2-3 cups of water. Add the dal, hing and 1/2 tsp turmeric.
  3. Cook the dal on a high flame until the pressure cooker lets out 2-3 whistles (about 10 minutes). Lower the flame and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Turn off gas, let the pressure cooker cool.
  5. Once you are able to open the lid of the cooker, check to see if the dal has turned to mush. Feel free to use a handheld blender to turn it into a thick curry like consistency. (I use an old fashioned ‘ravi’ 🙂  )
  6. Boil the dal with 1/4 teaspoon turmeric, salt and jaggery (optional). Add water, if required, to thin it out a bit. The final consistency should be like that of a thin porridge. When it bubbles, turn off the gas.
  7. Pour over a steaming mound of rice. Add a dollop of ghee and enjoy hot.

This recipe can be easily scaled up. I use 1/4 cup dal per person, per serving. Multiply that by the number of servings needed. (If you are scaling up, I would recommend going easy on the hing and turmeric. These can always be adjusted to taste at step 6.)

Handy hints:

  1. I find that the dal cooks better if I soak it in warm water for about an hour before cooking.
  2. I add the jaggery because toor dal sometimes causes acidity. But that’s just me.
  3. Ghee is pure clarified butter. While the best version is the home made one (duh?!), some commercially available ones work just as well. In the UK, I use the KTC brand.

About The Weekend Baker

Weekend baker, Yoga enthusiast, curious cook, collector of cookbooks and traditional recipes. Stop by and say Hello!
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