Veg & Daal

When I was a young one, and I didn't eat vegetables as readily as I do nowadays, my mother used to quietly slip some into the daal. I loved daal (as most Indian kids do), and loved it even more when my mum would mash up the rice, so that the whole lot became very easy to eat. It's sort of like how mothers in the USA slip veggies into pasta sauces that they serve their kids.

However, over time, I've grown to appreciate what a good idea that is for adults as well as for youngsters, and I've taken to making more grown up versions of it. For young children, whose teeth are still developing, you want things to be on the wetter side, and on the soft side. They're not going to appreciate very under-done veggies for the most part (if your kid is an exception to this, please give them a hug for me; it means that you have a particularly un-fussy young person in your life). As the child gets older, and her or his tastes develop, they start enjoying very crispy raw veggies, just barely cooked veggies, and all kinds of other things that they would have had a tough time with as kids.

It's why I've taken to updating the daal and rice with veg of my youth by adding raw veg to the end of the cooking of the daal. As in, I'll boil the beans, spice them up, make sure everything tastes right, and then turn off the heat. Then, I'll add whatever veggies I'm looking to add to that meal. This works especially well for dark leafy green veggies—which all of us should be eating every day—which cook rather quickly with a quick blast of heat (from the residual heat left in the pot of daal).

This does a few things. For one, it makes it much easier to get my complete meal in one go. I don't have to fuss about with a separate side dish when I'm in a rush. Everything's in one bowl, so I'm good to go. For another, it makes a very neat textural contrast. When cooked well, rice and beans tend to meld together beautifully. They provide this lovely creamy texture that cannot be matched. It's a very comforting texture, which is why so many cultures love to eat rice and beans together. However, to be perfectly honest, it can get a little monotonous. By adding the veg into that mix, you get this whole new textural experience. It's nice.

Of course, as all dark leafy greens do, it adds a good boost of fibre, vitamins, and minerals. You're getting a nice hit of vitamin K, A, and C, along with calcium and iron. Since vitamin C helps the absorption of iron, you're getting even more benefits from adding the leafy greens in. This means that you'll not only get the iron inside the greens, but also the iron in the brown rice and the iron in the beans much more easily than if you ate just the rice and beans. Since vitamin K and A are fat soluble, and daal is cooked with a bit of fat, you're getting the benefits of the whole shebang in one bowl!

Awesome, isn't it?

It's interesting to me to look back on things that my mother did, and see how smart they truly were. Mind you, if I were eating a proper Indian meal, I'd have the beans, the rice, the dark leafy greens, the root veg, the squashes/gourds, and raw vegetables in a meal. Each one would be in small little bowls, that I would mix with the rice as I'm eating, and I'd have a completely balanced meal going in one plate.

However, when I'm in a rush, and don't really have the time to have all those different components every time, it's nice to have something that I can have on the run without having to worry about getting all my nutrients in order. When I have the time, I certainly do make all those different varieties, and enjoy sitting down to them. When you're making small quantities of those things (enough for just one meal), you don't really need to spend too terribly long. However, there are those days when even those quick things to put together are too time- and labour-intensive to bother with.

On those days, it's daal, rice, and dark leafy greens.
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