Lakshmi Jagad’s father makes a mean Molagushayam; a simple dish that symbolises his quietly wonderful culinary legacy.
My mother is an adventurous cook. She has a knack for effortlessly combining dissonant ingredients into a single dish, throwing in all manner of fruit and vegetables into a winning salad, or concocting innovative salad dressings out of thin air. She is a bit of a free spirit, and has total faith in the possibility of a happy ending. Which is to say, she is confident that her experiments will taste good.
In contrast, my father is a conservative cook who prefers colouring within the lines. Although his dishes are minimal and light, they have a glowing simplicity that comforts and nourishes. His recipe for a good meal is white rice, a basic dal, and a vegetable. He uses very little by way of spice, relying solely on salt, turmeric and a smidgen of red chilli powder for flavour. A true Keralite, he prefers cooking with coconut oil, which adds a richness and aroma to everything he prepares. Growing up, although we were teenagers who craved hot and spicy, sour and piquant (drama and glamour), it was our father’s unassuming preparations that always brought us home, making us feel grounded, loved and secure.
Molagushayam is a dal dish my father cooked for us when my mother would go to Kerala to visit her mother. It is all about the basic, clean flavours that he is partial to. It is also quick to prepare and easy to digest. And it makes for a delicious meal, combined with rice, a simple vegetable, and a side of lime or mango pickle.
½ cup toor dal
½ - ¾ cup bottle gourd (dudhi), skinned and cubed
½ teaspoon turmeric
A pinch or two of red chilli powder
1-2 sprigs of curry leaves
1-2 teaspoons coconut oil
Salt to taste
Rinse the toor dal with plenty of water. Soak it for 10-20 minutes, if you have the time.
Cook toor dal until soft and mushy. You can use a pressure cooker, or you can cook it in a saucepan with plenty of water.
Steam the cubed bottle gourd in a steamer.
Mash the cooked dal coarsely. Add sufficient water to make a chunky soup-like consistency.
Place on heat, bring to a boil. Lower the flame.
Add the steamed bottle gourd to the simmering dal. Add turmeric, red chilli powder, and salt to taste.
Add the curry leaves.
Simmer for 5-6 minutes, then turn off the heat.
Drizzle coconut oil for a decadent finish.
Lakshmi Jagad is a freelance writer, editor and blogger based in Atlanta. Follow her blog here.
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