In the works: Maa di Daal

Clockwise from top left: Red onion, fresh green garlic, cilantro, lime, beans and lentils (Left to right: black whole urad, chana dal or split Bengal gram and red beans), cinnamon, green and black cardamoms and cassia leaf (Indian bay leaf or tejpatta).

CLICK: Beans ‘n Lentils
Event Details HERE

Photographer: Jai
Camera: Canon EOS 300D
Lens: 100 mm macro
Shutter speed: 0.6 sec
ISO Speed: 100
F-stop: f/9.0

DEADLINE: May 30, 2008

Maa di dal literally means “mother’s dal“. It’s also called ‘Maa ki dal” or “Dal Makhani” (buttered lentils)
Ma = mother and dal = lentils in Punjabi and many north Indian languages. Maa is also the word used in Punjabi to denote sabut urad dal (whole unskinned black lentils).

Edited to pass the buck: Our knowledge of Punjabi is limited to “puttar”, “gonglu” and some swear phrases that include the word “ma”. With regard to “mother’s lentils”, we were just quoting Raghavan Iyer and food writer Rashmi Uday Singh. Musy – the thoroughbred Punju – says “Maa ki Dal” does not mean “mother’s lentils” (see comments below), but it sounds nice in a corny kinda way, dontcha think?

This is a truly outstanding recipe from Raghavan Iyer‘s 660 Curries. While split urad dal (the white skinned variety) is used extensively throughout India to ferment idli and dosa batters and to make sweet and savouries, whole urad (black lentils) are used only in certain pockets of the north-west, like Rajasthan, Haryana and Punjab.

This dal is a staple on Indian restaurant menus, doused in butter and cream and served with a basket of hot naans. This home verison is lower in fat, but does not compromise on flavour. We were cooking whole urad (black lentils) for the first time, and this recipe ensures we will be cooking it regularly. It has a mellow creaminess that showcases the other flavours wonderfully.

Green / Spring/ Baby Garlic

This recipe uses a lot of garlic – about 1/4 cup chopped. Using tender Green Garlic, available in spring in farmer’s markets is a nice variation. It’s also called Spring Garlic or Baby Garlic, and looks like scallions (spring onions), but the taste and aroma are distinctly garlicky.

It can be used in any recipe in lieu of mature garlic. The end product will produce a delicate flavor, more mild than matured raw garlic. The green shoots emerging from the bulb can also be added for an extra garlic boost.

Green garlic is one of the easiest things to grow. Stick garlic cloves in a pot of soil. They will give out green shoots. ( See pic.)

Plant them in the fall or spring and when the green shoots reach about 10-14 inches high, they can be harvested. In warmer climates, plant during summer for a green harvest in 60 to 90 days. It grows very well indoors in pots. We simply stick sprouting garlic cloves in pots with other plants. They mind their business and grow quietly on the side.

This recipe uses three types of beans and lentils:
** Whole black lentils (sabut urad)
** Chana dal (split Bengal gram) – yellow split peas taste quite similar and can be used instead.
** Kidney beans (rajma). The kidney beans are cooked separately, mashed and added into the dish at a later stage. Canned kidney beans (rinsed and drained) are a convenient option here. Organic refried beans (black or red) work equally well. (Ingredients: organic beans, organic oil, salt.) No rinsing, draining or mashing. Just add 3/4 cup ‘cos it is tightly packed.

Good substitutes for kidney beans are Red Beans (frijoles rojos pequeños) and Red Salvadorean beans. (See this post for pictures).

We used red beans.

We love this recipe and it’s so easy to make. We substituted the heavy whipping cream with low-fat evaporated milk.

Maa di Dal (Slow-Cooked Creamy Black Lentils)

(from 660 Curries)

1 cup whole urad dal (sabut urad)

To cut down cooking time, soak it overnight in lots of water.

Separately, soak about 1/2 cup kidney beans overnight and cook until soft. Or use 1 cup canned kidney beans – rinsed and drained.. We used red beans.

Mince in a food processor or by hand
1/4 cup chopped garlic (about 8 medium cloves)
2 to 4 serrano or Thai green chillies
2 tablespoons chopped ginger

Boil the urad with
1/2 cup chana dal (or use split yellow peas)
the minced ginger-garlic-chilli mix
2 each white and black cardamoms
Indian bay laves (cassia/tejpatta) or regular bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks (each about 3 inches long)

If you tie the whole spices in a muslin cloth with kitchen twine, you can take them out easily in the end.

in six cups of water and salt on the stovetop or in a pressure cooker until the lentils are soft and fall apart.

If cooking on the stovetop, skim off foam from time to time.

While the lentils are cooking,

Chop up 6 or 7 medium tomatoes and cook them down on the stove top or microwave (five minutes on HIGH partially covered) until the liquid dries up a bit and it becomes half its volume. We need 2/3 cup of this sauce. Or use 1 cup canned crushed/diced tomatoes.

Heat 2 tablespoons ghee (clarified butter)

(If you don’t have ghee, heat regular butter for 3 minutes or so until it becomes golden and smells a bit nutty.)

Add 1 teaspoon cumin seeds.

When they sizzle, add
1 cup finely chopped red onion (or shallots)

Fry on medium heat until brown around the edges (4 to 5 minutes)

Reduce the heat to medium-lo and add
the tomatoes
salt to taste
cayenne powder to taste (about 1/2 tsp)

Simmer for 8 to 10 minutes until some of the ghee starts to separate on the surface.

Add this to the cooked lentils. Add another cup of water to the pan to deglaze it and add that as well.

Also add
1 cup cooked kidney beans (you can coarsely mash them)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

**we used low-fat evaporated milk, plain milk works fine too.

Add more water if you need to. The lentils sauce should be think, not runny.

Let it simmer for another 8 to 10 minutes.

Adjust seasonings and add a dash of lime if your tomatoes weren’t tart enough.

Let it sit for an hour for the flavours to come together. Remove the whole spices.

Add more ghee before serving (we didn’t),

garnish with
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Serve with crusty bread or naans. Tastes better the next day.

Maa di Dal with Green Garlic is our entry for Weekend Herb Blogging hosted this week @ Wandering Chopsticks.

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  1. musical says:

    hey guys, Maa is not Mother here. Maah, or Mash is the Punjabi name for Sabut Urad/Whole Urad :-D Rajmah, means big maah :) .

  2. musical says:

    He he, i see that you do mention this, nice twist to the old meaning ;) .

    post amended.

  3. dee says:

    love dal makhni bee, and very true that it tastes better the next day!! Im just reading 660 curries, great book and a true treasure !!

  4. Thanks for your submission! 660 curries!!! My curry repertoire only includes a tiny handful. :P I love the sound of this. The use of so many beans makes it very protein-rich, yet still healthy.

  5. musical says:

    Hey guys, i didn’t mean to sound snooty :( My apologies to you both and the readership if i sounded that way…..

    Should i stand on my desk ;) .

    i suspected that maa didn’t mean mother in punju, but so many places on the web say the same thing. no, you didn’t sound snooty.

  6. indosungod says:

    The whole urad dal (with skin) was used in my parents’ house for making idli batter. The process of removing the skin was a process in itself. My grandma still uses the whole urad dal with skin even today. Need I say the idli tasted so much better. I still have a bag lying around but sheer laziness has made me resort to the skinned variety time and again. I was surprised when I tasted whole urad dal made into dal, thought the only use was for making idli!

  7. Cham says:

    looks like a creamy bean dip, never used Black urad dal other than making idli podi. Should be great for rotis even with bread!

  8. Rashmi says:

    Thanks for the green garlic tip. Will toss some ageing garlic into a pot and see if they can bloom against my super windy high rise and black thumb:)

  9. Jyothsna says:

    You could translate that as mother of all lentils – hope musical doesn’t take offence to that!!

  10. Purnima says:

    B, loved the first pic n makhani looks yum too! thks for sharing!

  11. arundathi says:

    you had me at low fat dal makhani – i get seriously sick looking at the butter and ghee dancing around on restaurant versions. this is perfect. and i’m going to grow that green garlic today. thanks for the tip.

  12. Jayashree says:

    The dal looks so nice and creamy…..I like the bread in the background….

  13. Nirmala says:

    Wonderful! I was actually searching for this recipe and thanks a bunch for the detailed steps. I have black urad dal which I amma made into a kootu with drumstick leaves but overnight soaking is not enough for it as I found as it has to be soaked for 24 hrs for stove top cooking. If you pressure cook then this is fine. Will try and let u know!

  14. Anita says:

    LOL Mother’s Dal! But Musical has already come to the rescue! It is yet another hearty Punju dal, and the dhabas make it so well! Love it, love it, love it! Now I have such a unbelievably simple method for the creamy dal…will share it one of these days.

  15. Shibani says:

    Loved the veggie picture.The onion look so tempting and of course the daal too irrestabile.

  16. swati raman says:

    loved that pic.. when will i get a cam as good as that and eyes as good as urs and mind as creative as urs… huh.. enuf but seriuosly.. i drool over that first pic…. dal makhani is my fav too.. and will make it today…

  17. Happy Cook says:

    Looks delicious not to mention creamy.
    I love food which taste better next day.

  18. Yum. one of my favourites. I use black urad dal with kidney beans in mine too. It is time I made it again, I think.

  19. Asha says:

    I am not a Punju but I knew it refers to black whole lentils.I made it with slow cooker and became little slimy!:D

    Looks great, love the wholesome food. My dal in the draft too, will post someday!:)

    Have a great middle of the week day, enjoy. It’s very rainy here suddenly but we NEED rain. It has been so hot and dry for about 10days, I have been watering the plants almost everyday now.

  20. Shyam says:

    You guys telling me you havent heard of “kudi” or “soni”? :) No Punjabi pop is authentic if it doesnt have “kudiye” or “soNiye” in the lyrics :D Consider your Punju vocab improved by two :D

    oh, yeah, we remembered another one – soor for pig :D .

  21. Laavanya says:

    My grandma uses the whole black urad dhal for making idlis too (of course she rinses off the skin in several changes of water) and it results in unbelievably soft idlis. I bought a small pack of whole black urad just to make daal makhni – just love it… thanks for a lower fat version.

  22. sunshinemom says:

    Just when I thought Shah Rukh Khan had given the world ‘Chak de’- isn’t that Punjabi too? The dal looks simply lipsmacking!

  23. its worth coming over to this site just for the pictures themselves!! the yummy recipes are such an added bonus!!! i’ve always loved dal makhani.

  24. Uma says:

    delicious dal makhani. wonderful pictures. I am going to buy the same camera just to get beautiful pictures like yours. (I know not only the camera but a creative mind like yours should be there, he he!) You guys are just awesome.

  25. Rachna says:

    what about ‘chak de phatte’ yaar… loosely meaning ‘let it go’…now u know a senetence :) my mum says maa di daal is called so because it is so high in protein (as high as that found in meat) that maa would be refering to maas (meat)… my two punjabi cents here…..

  26. Trupti says:

    That is a classic, I love it with some parathas and dahi. I liked that you used red beans here…very nice touch.

  27. Paulina says:

    You have a gorgeous blog! I love how professional it looks -keep it up!

  28. Vani says:

    Love the pictures, as always! “Maa” ki dal made me smile :)

  29. Bharti says:

    Gotta love the title! The recipe is more or less how I make it too with one variation, I cook it in the crock pot.

  30. Maya says:

    I was always confused between Ma ki Dal and Rajmaah, coz some people I knew would say both are names of dishes, hehehe. That first picture is soo good, rajmah looks lovely..

  31. Maya says:

    Oops, meant Dal Makhani :)

  32. [...] I read about Dal Makhani by dear Bee, its hard to resist as I called amma and asked her to soak whole urad dal. And there I made it this [...]

  33. Johanna says:

    I want to make this dal just because your photo of the ingredients is so gorgeous – have started to gather a few more spices into my kitchen but need more variety of dal/beans for this sort of thing and I know just where to get them

  34. Latha says:

    the dal looks yumm! i see that i have lots of posts to catch up on! u say u’re loaded with work and yet u make this amazing looking asparagus thingy that looks divine, wish i had half as that much energy!

  35. Miri says:

    Comfort food at its best even for a true blue South Indian like me – though most South Indians whom I have described this to have recoiled at the thought of eating something so “kozhai kozhai” (sticky) but have then come to like it.I havent heard of 660 curries before, thanks for the introduction, I know what I’m getting for my birthday.

    You really haven’t cooked whole urad dal before this? Besides dal makhani, I like it cooked just like a plain dal with a usual tadka.

  36. Kalyn says:

    Sounds delicious. I’m intrigued by this book.

  37. PS says:

    Did I miss something or does your recipe not say when to add the garlic-chilli-ginger paste?

    it says to add it with the urad dal.

  38. PS says:

    Yes, found that line now. Thanks!

  39. Deeba says:

    Thanks for the wonderful dal post. Just made it & muddled up all the processes because hurry makes curry! But I think I got somewhere…the flavours are marrying each other at the moment & it does look good!:0)

  40. urad says:

    [...] [...]

  41. [...] has a magnificent post with photos on Maa di Dal (Dal Makhani) with explanations of the [...]

  42. davey says:

    @ arundathi:
    you had me at low fat dal makhani –


    . . . but what about the reserved 2/3 cup of tomatoes? Did that ever get used? (says “add the tomatoes, I assume that is the ‘rest’ not the 2/3 cup set aside)

    we need the 2/3 cup of tomatoes set aside after cooking the whole tomatoes. if you’re using crushed/diced from a can, we need 1 cup. so “add the tomatoes” means 2/3 cup cooked-down whole tomatoes or 1 cup canned crushed/diced tomatoes.

  43. Anonymous says:

    Your recipe has been tempting me for a while. I just went to the Indian store today and picked up black urad with the intention of making this. I’ve never made a dal with urad before!

    Question: about how much does this recipe make in terms of servings?

    at least eight.

  44. farah says:

    hi there,

    i was just browsing for this dal and came across to ur beautiful site. this is the first time i will be making this dal and also the first time to cook with sabut urad dal. In short, i have few queires if u guys possibly can answer it -
    - Can u tell after soaking overnight also, how much time sabut urad dal takes to cook???(since u have already don it)
    - if i am not wrong, In the ing. list u have mentioned 1/2 cup kidney beans but at the end u guys have mentioned 1 cup kidney beans needs to be added in cooked dal. Can u explain.
    - u have mentioned that the substite for chana dal is yellow split pea, right. What’s that, i mean is it toor dal or something else??? please advise
    Thanx in advance for ur reply. Hope u answer.
    Have a Great day,Cheers!!

    • jai bee says:

      it takes a little more time than soaked whole moong.

      1/2 cup kidney beans dried , after soaking gives around a cup or slightly more.

      yellow split pea is not toor dal. it’s similar to chana dal.

  45. [...] each sunflower seeds and hemp powder. (16 oz.) 8.30 a.m.: 1 banana 12.00 p.m.: 1 cup vegan oil-free dal makhani with peanut butter. 1.00 p.m.: a handful of green grapes 4.00 p.m.: 8 oz. glass of home-made almond [...]

  46. [...] cooks the best food. Maa ki Dal recipe on Jugalbandi reminded me of tasty Dal Makhani my mom used to make. I was excited to try this spicy Dal Makhani [...]

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