Friday, November 25, 2016

Urad dal with coconut and cilantro

This is all about the texture of the urad dal. Also known as black gram or black lentil, the texture – which retains a bite even after its long cooking – is more like that of a mung bean than that of your usual lentil. The difference between black and white urad dal is that the white version has had its skin removed. I prefer to use the black – the skin helps the dal keeps it shape and gives the dish a pleasing bite – but the white, which you won’t need to soak overnight, works just as well. The inspiration for this I owe to Aasmah Mir, whose website,, is a treasure trove of Pakistani family cooking.


Serves four 

250g urad dal, soaked in plenty of water overnight
60g clarified butter or ghee
1 large onion (240g), peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed or 2 tsp hing
75g fresh root ginger, peeled and coarsely grated (60g)
1 green chilli, flesh and seeds finely chopped   
1 tbsp garam masala
5 medium tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped (600g net)
160g coconut cream
2 tbsp lime juice, plus 1 lime, cut into wedges, to serve
1½ tbsp black mustard seeds, toasted

100g fresh coconut, roughly grated
50g crispy fried shallots (shop-bought)
30g coriander, roughly chopped


Drain the dal, rinse under cold water, and set aside.
Place the butter of ghee in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When starts to sizzle, add the onion and fry for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until soft and golden brown. Add the garlic, ginger, chili and garam masala and fry for another 3 minutes. Add the dal 41/2 cups of water and 1 tsp salt. Turn down the heat to midium and simmer for 40 minutes stirring every 5 minutes or so until the sauce has the consistency of thick soup and the dal is cooked  but still holding its shape. Bring to a rapid boil for a few minutes towards the end of cooking if the sauce need reducing.

Turn the heat down to low, then stir in the coconut cream, lime juice and black mustard seeds. Remove from the heat and serve. Add to the serving bowl the toppings.

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