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
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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
2 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
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.
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),
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Serve with crusty bread or naans. Tastes better the next day.
Filed Under: 660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking, bay leaf, Beans-(Dried), cardamom, cassia leaf, chana-dal, cinnamon, Dairy/Cheese, dal, dal makhani, Garlic, Garlic greens, green garlic, India, kidney-beans, Lentils, Onion/Shallot, Punjab, Raghavan Iyer, red beans, sabut urad, tejpatta, Tomato, vegetarian recipes, whole urad dal