A 15-Minute, Five-Ingredient Childhood Favorite

Credit…David Malosh for The New York Times. Food Stylist: Simon Andrews.

Every culture has its comfort dishes, the ones with powers to calm the frazzled, succor the ailing and mollify the homesick. Chicken soup and blintzes with cottage cheese and cinnamon sugar whisk me right back to my Brooklyn Jewish childhood, and I still regularly self-medicate with both of them.

For Priya Krishna, it’s a fragrant, bubbling pot of her mother’s dal. Across South Asia and its diaspora, Priya writes, dal exemplifies one of her favorite Hindi terms, “ghar ka khaana,” which means home food — unfussy meals linked to childhood that are at their most satisfying when made in your own kitchen.

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Everyday Dal

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Her mother’s recipe for a five-ingredient everyday dal is ready in 15 minutes, but it’s full of complex flavor from the chhonk, or tempering, made from ghee-toasted cumin, asafetida and red chile that you pour into the pot before serving. You don’t need to have grown up with it: Serve it with roti or over rice, and let yourself be soothed.

A big bowl of pasta can also be comforting, especially this one from Lidey Heuck. Lidey’s clever move is to add earthy, nutty chickpeas to the traditional Italian combination of pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe. Then, she takes it a step further by stirring Parmesan, butter and lemon into the pan to balance the flavors and add body to the sauce. Her recipe is flexible, too. Substitute broccoli or other sturdy greens for the broccoli rabe, and use any kind of sausage or shape of pasta you have on hand. Maybe make it once according to the recipe, then let yourself play. Dishes like this are the most fun to adapt and tough to get wrong.

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