The basic preparation of most Indian lentil curries is simple. Boil the dal with a pinch of turmeric. Mix in salt. Add flavouring & veggies. Simmer for a couple of minutes and serve. This cookbook lists 100 simple lentil curries.
Column 1 lists different types of dals used.
0. Split and husked Mung dal needs just soaking. Soaked mung dal can be eaten raw and is used in a variety of Indian salads called Kosambir.
As you move down the list, the dals change, but the basic preparation does not. Further down you come to fresh local lentils, which can be cooked the same way.
1,2 &3 : Split Mung dal, Masoor dal and Tuvar dal are thin and cook fast. This is why they are the most popular dals across India. Larger dals like Chick peas and Rajma (Kidney beans) need to be soaked overnight, drained and cooked with fresh water. They take the longest to cook.
4. Chana dal is thicker. An hour of presoaking softens it and helps it cook quicker.
5. Fresh lentils are rarely used in Indian cuisine because they are seasonal, perish fast and are not widely available. Use them when you find them. They lend a fresh taste to curries. They cook fast and can be cooked like fresh vegetables.
6. Dals can be roasted or fried before boiling them. This technique is not widely used. Roasting / frying them alters their taste and texture and result in some very different tasting curries.
7. Whole unhusked dals are more nutritious and need presoaking.Though this cookbook lists only unhusked Mung dal, any dal can be used in its place.
A variety of goodies can be cooked along with the dal as listed in column 2. Anything edible tastes good with Dal. Be creative and use your favourite goodies.
Fried spices are used as a garnish in most dal curries. This injects a burst of flavour. Heat a spoon of oil, add a pinch of cumin / mustard seeds and mix them into the dal just before serving.