Urad (black lentil dhal)

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This creamy dhal made of black lentils (Guju name Urad, latin name vigna mungo) is normally cooked on Saturdays. There may be some religious reason for it but I don’t eat for religious reasons but rather for the satisfaction of my belly being full of culinary delights. It’s much richer/heavier/silkier to eat than the Mug Dhal I have previously posted because as the dhal cooks it oozes into the vagar and enriches it.

A word of warning here: urad takes some prep and is best slow cooked over a few hours. The benefits are worth it though  – lots of protein, iron, fibre, great for diabetics. Sometimes you can be left with farty pants after eating it so to help reduce that risk I cook it with fennel seeds which aid digestion and give a liquorice undertone – a trick picked up from my dad. But if you don’t have fennel seeds then just substitute with mustard and cumin seeds (and have the windeze on hand in case).

Ingredients:

  • 200g black lentils (urad dhal) (dried weight)
  • 2 1/2 pints water (pani)
  • 3 pieces of dried mangosteen (kokum) – if you don’t have this don’t worry. It adds sourness which you can achieve with more lemon juice at the end
  • 6/7 curry leaves (limbra)
  • 1 tbs clarified butter (ghee)
  • 1/1 tbs ground nut oil
  • Pinch of asafoetida (hing)
  • 1 1/2 tsp fennel seeds (if you don’t have these, substitue 1 tsp mustard seeds and 1 tsp cumin but lose the liquoricey flavour)
  • 1 stick cinnamon (taj)
  • 1 large dry bayleaf (tej patia)
  • 1 large white onion (dhungri) – diced very finely
  • 3 cloves (lasun) and 1 inch of ginger (adu)- either minced or made into puree
  • 1 or 2 fresh green chilies (murcha) chopped finely
  • 7 green cardamon pods (elaiche)
  • 6 cloves (lawing)
  • 1 tsp jaggery (ghor) – omit if diabetic
  • 1 tsp salt (nimak)
  • 1 /2 tsp red chili powder (lal murcha)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric powder (hurder)
  • 1 tsp cumin coriander seed powder (dhanna jeeru)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice (limbu) – this is a guide. Add little at a time until it’s to your taste
  • Coriander to garnish
  • Full fat yogurt or double cream to serve

Preparation

  • The night before check the urad for any stones, then wash thoroughly in cold water. This will take around 8 washes. Leave to soak overnight covered in water (first picture above) . In the morning, the urad will have swollen slightly and the water will be murky.
  • Discard the soaking water the urad was soaked in and rinse the urad a few times. It now has to be boiled until tender. This can be done in a pressure cooker and takes about 15 minutes in mine using 2 1/2 pints of water. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, it can take a few hours to cook on the stove. Just keep an eye on it until it is tender but still holding it’s bean shape. Do not throw away the water it was boiled in as this will be needed later.

Cooking

  • Put the mangosteen and curry leaves in the urad and set aside
  • In a saucepan, heat the ghee, oil, cinnamon and bay leaf over a medium heat.
  • Throw in a very small pinch of asafoetida then add the fennel seed.
  • Once the fennel is sizzling add the onions and cook for about 5 minutes until browning at the edges
  • Add the ginger/garlic and chilies. Cook for another 5 minutes stirring frequently
  • Add the spices and stir to combine well
  • Add the jaggery and let it melt before adding in the chopped tomatoes. Cook until the tomatoes have squished and a sauce is formed
  • Add this sauce to the dhal and the liquid it was boiled in. To make sure I get all the goodness, I usually put a spoonful of the dhal into the vagar pan and swish it around so it soaks up the spices. Add lemon juice to taste
  • Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cook until a the volume is reduced by a third and creamy texture is achieved. Check there is enough salt as you go so you can add more.
  • Basically the longer it is slow cook, the better the taste. Don’t be tempted to rapid boil it as end result isn’t the same.
  • Once cooked, garnish with coriander and serve with a dollop of yoghurt (or cream if you are decadent)
  • I like to eat this with freshly cooked rotlis smeared in ghee. I personally don’t like it with rice but don’t let that stop you from having some if you so wish. Alternatively, serve with parathas or bread.
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