I love lentils. I should clarify. I love lentils now. My sister S adores lentils – masoor aamti along with (as she would say it), “hot hot” rice. One of our favorite family story is when she was 6 years old she woke up in the middle of the night crying. Apparently she forgot to eat masoor aamti with rice! Since then whenever my mom cooked masoor aamti she made sure S ate it with rice to her heart’s content!
I, on the other hand, loved sprouted vaal usal (field beans curry). It deserves a separate post since it is a popular regional speciality. Tedious prep work but still my favorite! S hated it.
Around the same time (I was probably in 3rd or 4th grade) I stopped eating masoor aamti. I can’t seem to remember the exact reason besides the fact that we each had our favorites.
Few years later I finally gave in and went for a cup of masoor aamti. The tomatoey-spicy concoction has a meaty and rich flavor that was and still remains memorable. I couldn’t believe it — I stayed away from it for years!
Now that I’m a genetic counselor by profession I am intrigued how genetics plays a role in our taste preferences. I came across an interesting article on the Smithsonian website called, “The Genetics of Taste”, that concludes genetics, nature and of course nurture play pivotal roles in what we enjoy and avoid!
My favorite the sprouted vaal usal (field beans curry) I have to say has a mild bitter taste. Our tongue carries a receptor called TAS2R, some people carry a ‘sensitive’ form of this receptor and are able to taste bitter chemicals. The TAS2R gene might explain whether we enjoy certain veggies with open arms or move them to the side of our plate. A version of the gene in turn can play a role in our sweet preferences!
My masoor aamti dilemma though was not resolved. If we have “bitter genes” and “sweet genes” I’m sure we have “sibling rivalry” one as well!!
Masoor aamti is a perfect weekday recipe! Any kind of lentils need some time to soak in water to speed up the cooking process — doesn’t have to be too long. To work smarter I typically soak it in the morning before I head out to work and cook them in a pressure cooker (2-3 whistles) or use slow-cooker in the evening. The cooked lentils then get mixed with the spiced onion-tomato mixture I describe in detail below.
The recipe I’m sharing uses a slow-cooker (crockpot) – the thought of lentils simmering in the spices is comforting and perfect as a soup for the wintery months ahead!
To learn more about genetics and taste check out:
Adapted from: myMom’s recipe[recipe title=”Masoor Aamti” servings=”2″ cooking time=”2 hrs (slow cooker recipe)/30 mins (pressure cooker) Prep ~2 hrs (soak) + 20 mins” difficulty=”easy”]
- 1.5 cups whole lentils (whole masoor daal)
- 1.5 cup finely chopped onion
- 1.5 cup finely chopped tomato
- 2 tbsp ginger-garlic paste
- 2 finely chopped green chillies
- 1 pinch asafoetida
- 1 tsp mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 4-5 curry leaves
- 1/2 tsp turmeric powder
- 1/2 tbsp red chilli powder
- 1/2 tsp cumin-coriander powder
- 1 tbsp garam masala
- cilantro (finely chopped for garnish)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- Sea salt to taste
- Rinse and soak the lentils in water for minimum 2 hours.
- In a medium-size slow cooker — add the pre-soaked lentils + 3 cups water + turmeric powder. Set on high for ~ 1 hour.
- In the meantime, heat a pan, add olive oil followed by asafoetida, mustard seeds and cumin seeds. Once the seeds start to splatter add curry leaves, green chillies and ginger-garlic paste. Stir well and add onions.
- Cook for few 5-8 minutes until the onions are nice golden brown.
- Add the tomatoes, stir and add all the spice powders.
- Stir until the tomatoes soften and you can see oil coming out from the sides (~5-8 minutes). Turn off the heat.
- Once the lentils are cooked in the slow cooker for an hour — add the spiced onion-tomato mixture. Stir well and set the slow cooker on high for another hour.
- Check if the lentils are cooked. Add salt, adjust spices, garnish with cilantro.
- Enjoy warm-hearty masoor aamti as soup or with “hot hot” basmati rice. [/recipe]