One classic meal in Desi cooking is Daal Chawwal (lentils and rice). Basmati rice(or other long grain rice) and lentils are a staple for almost every meal, everything else is a plus. Usually for dinner in a desi household there will be chawwal, daal, subzi (vegetable) and salaan (meat dish). Growing up, I remember my parents always saying that anytime there wasn't daal chawwal for dinner, they didn't feel they had a complete meal.
My favorite daal among the many available is Masoor ki daal. Now there are two kinds of Masoor available, red and black or green. The more common one is laal (red) daal and one of the easiest to make. People from different parts of Pakistan and India make daal in a number of different ways. The method I will share here is the traditional Dehli/UP (Utthar Pradesh) way of making lentils, by boiling it with some simple masaala's and then adding bhagaar at the end.
1 cup laal daal, picked over and rinsed
~2 cups water
1/2 tsp laal mirch (red chili powder) or to taste
1/3 tsp haaldi (powder)
1/2 tsp garlic paste
In a medium heavy bottom sauce pan, add your rinsed lentils, water and all of the other ingredients. Bring to a boil and then lower stove to medium/low to low. Simmer the lentils until all the water is dry. The lentils should be soft and a pale yellow color (no whitish middles, that means they're still undercooked and will not mash. If this happens, add a little water and simmer again until there is no whitish middle). Take a large spoon and mash the lentils until they become like a thick paste...kind of like watery mashed potatoes. Then turn the stove back on to low and add water while stirring until it reaches a thick soupy consistency.
Simmer the daal until it is near boiling. DO NOT LET IT BOIL. You want to heat it to mix in the water well but do not boil, just simmer. On the side prepare a bhagaar of onions and zeera (cumin seeds). Add the bhagaar to your daal just before turning off the stove. Serve with white rice.