As I’ve been teaching myself to cook Indian food, I have noticed there are certain types of dishes I am attracted to and eager to learn and then some types of dishes I avoid.  The ones I enjoy learning are most often the more difficult dishes.  I just seem to be more attracted to the show stoppers, the types of dishes usually bought at a restaurant because most people don’t make them at home.  When I learn these dishes, it feels as though I have created something unexpected and special and it feels very rewarding.  The dishes I tend to avoid are usually the easiest.  They are the everyday meals most people know how to make and for some reason I avoid learning them and feel they are actually more difficult than the harder, gourmet dishes I tend to go for.

For the longest time I had no idea how to make rice and dal, two of the most basic and easiest dishes in Indian vegetarian cooking. Whenever we needed these dishes Hubby was the one who made them.   At times when I did try to make them, I could never remember how to do it (since we didn’t use written recipes) so I had to ask Hubby to walk me through them and he always ended up just making it again himself.

 

 

Once I finally figured out how to make a basic dal recipe, I realized how easy it was and wondered what the hold up was all about.  Now I stock my pantry with every type of lentil the Indian store offers. I have red lentils, green lentils, black, brown and white lentils.  I have whole and split lentils.  You name it, we got it.   I remember when Hubby and I went to the Indian store one day to stock up on the dal, the checkout lady was shocked by how many types of dals we were buying and curiously asked why we were buying so many.  Hubby had to explain to her that we were just stocking our pantry.

 

 

One of the reasons I love to make this dish is because it’s Hubby’s all-time favorite dish. One of my favorite moments of cooking is when we sit down for dinner and I watch him take that first bite.  If the recipe is good, he will tell me “wow this is awesome!” or give me some sort of verbal praise.  But if the dish is a true success, he won’t say a word.  He will silently enjoy every moment of that first bite and then he usually breaks out into his “yummy” dance.  Those are the moments I love and it’s the main reason I love to cook.

 

 

When we were first married I asked him for his list of favorite foods and black dal was at the top of the list.  It is made with whole black lentils mixed with split yellow chickpea lentils, also called gram lentils or chana dal in Hindi.  If you are ever shopping at the Indian store and looking for the whole black lentils, it’s helpful to know that these are called urad dal, but there are three types of urad dal.  There is black whole Urad dal, split Urad dal and white Urad dal.  For a long time I thought all these types of dals were different but they are actually all the same.  Urad dal has a black skin with a white inner bean.  When they are whole it looks black.  When they are split you can see the skin and the inner bean.  Then they can also be peeled so all you have is the white bean.

 

I hesitated to learn this dish while we were newly-weds because Hubby told me black dal is more difficult, more labor intensive and takes much longer to cook.  It does take longer to cook, about 10 more minutes if using a pressure cooker.  If you’re using a regular pot because you don’t have a pressure cooker it would take a whole lot longer.

 

 

 

 Rajastani Style Black Dal

adapted from Gordon Ramsey’s Blog

Serves: 4 to 5

Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

 

Ingredients:

1 cup black dal (Urad dal)

1/2 cup chana dal

8 cups water

2 cloves

1/2 cinnamon stick

4 black peppercorns

3 tablespoons ghee or melted butter or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon cumin seeds (optional)

2 medium onions, diced

2 tablespoons garlic & ginger paste

3 green chilies (Thai/Serrano), to taste; split lengthwise and chopped

3 tomatoes, diced

2 teaspoons garam masala

2 teaspoons red chili powder, to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt, to taste

2 tablespoons cream (optional)

 

Directions:

1. Pour the lentils into a pot or pressure cooker, cover with water and whisk vigorously with your hand to wash the lentils. Strain out the water and repeat until the water runs clear, about 3 or 4 passes.  Cover with 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Skim off the scum that rises to the surface using a small strainer or a spoon.  Then add the cloves, cinnamon and pepper corns.  Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft.  If using a pressure cooker, let it whistle for 8-10 whistles, reduce heat again and let simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and let the pressure release naturally.

 

 

2. Heat the ghee (or butter or vegetable oil) in a pan until it ripples on the surface.  Add the cumin seeds if using them and let them splutter and turn brown.  Add the onions and green chilies (optional) and cook for 6-8 minutes until they turn light brown, stirring occasionally.

 

 

3. Add the chopped ginger & garlic paste, cook for 2 minutes.

 

 

4. Add the chopped tomatoes (I puree them because Hubby doesn’t like tomato chunks), cook until the oil separates by bubbling to the top.

 

 

5. Add the  the garam masala, red chili powder, turmeric and salt. Let it cook another 5-6 minutes.

 

 

6. Add the lentils to the sauce or vice versa and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  If you are choosing to use cream, stir it in  just before serving.

 

 

This dal can be served as a main dish and is great with rice or with chapatis to accompany it.  It can also be served as a side dish to a dry vegetable dish like gobi subzi or vegetable cutlets.

 

 

Rajastani Style Black Dal

adapted from Gordon Ramsey’s Blog

Serves: 4 to 5

Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Ingredients:

1 cup black dal (Urad dal)

1/2 cup chana dal

8 cups water

2 cloves

1/2 cinnamon stick

4 black peppercorns

3 tablespoons ghee or melted butter or vegetable oil

1 tablespoon cumin seeds (optional)

2 medium onions, diced

2 tablespoons garlic & ginger paste

3 green chilies (Thai/Serrano), to taste; split lengthwise and chopped

3 tomatoes, diced

2 teaspoons garam masala

2 teaspoons red chili powder, to taste

1 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon salt, to taste

2 tablespoons cream (optional)

Directions:

  1. Pour the lentils into a pot or pressure cooker, cover with water and whisk vigorously with your hand to wash the lentils. Strain out the water and repeat until the water runs clear, about 3 or 4 passes.  Cover with the 4 cups of water and bring to a boil.  Skim off the scum that rises to the surface using a small strainer or a spoon.  Then add the cloves, cinnamon and pepper corns.  Reduce the heat to medium, cover the pot and cook for 30 minutes until the lentils are soft.  If using a pressure cooker, let it whistle for 8-10 whistles, reduce heat again and let simmer for 10 minutes, then remove from heat and let the pressure release naturally.
  2. Heat the ghee (or butter or vegetable oil) in a pan until it ripples on the surface.  Add the cumin seeds if using them and let them splutter and turn brown.  Add the onions and green chilies (optional) and cook for 6-8 minutes until they turn light brown, stirring occasionally.  Add the chopped ginger & garlic paste and chopped tomatoes along with the garam masala, red chili powder, turmeric and salt. Let it cook another 5-6 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and have lost their shape.
  3. Add the lentils to the sauce or vice versa and let it simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in cream just before serving

This dal can be served as a main dish with chapatis, naan or rice to accompany it.  It can also be served as a side dish to a dry vegetable dish like gobi subzi or vegetable cutlets.

 

 

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