You must know by now how much do I love lentils. Not only they are an excellent source of protein for vegetarians and vegans; they also make low fat and low calorie meals. And they are super tasty!
Since I don’t eat any form of meat, I cook lentils almost every day to keep my protein quota up in diet. Mostly I cook them the Indian way, “daal” as we call it; but sometimes I like to have them in the form of fritters for special curries.
This Punjabi daal takes me back to my roots and days of childhood. The typical Punjabi name for this one is “Maah choliyan di daal” i.e. a combo of Urad dal (Maah/split black gram) and Chana dal (Choliyan/bengal gram). Traditionally this daal used to be prepared in earthen pots on a clay stove. And that method used to impart that earthy taste and creamy texture to it. Now, times have changed and we of course don’t use clay stoves anymore (no matter how much the western world wants to believe that! 🙂 )
And so that earthy taste is kind of lost in the past. But the creamy texture and amazing taste that comes with the use of minimal spices, still tickles your taste buds the same way.
This Maa chole ki dal has always been a staple in my household while growing up. Mom used to serve it with crispy parathe for lunch, along with some fresh yogurt or raita. The dal itself is very heavy and we almost always ended up overeating. Since Mom always knew that would happen, she used to keep dinner very light like curd rice, lemon rice or khichdi etc.
I have heard all sorts of stories from people regarding the name of this dal. Once I heard a young lady announcing in a group that its call maa ki dal since mothers used to prepare them with love for their family. It was funny when I heard that. And I wanted to tell the person that its not the reason why its called so. But then I refrained myself. People like to weave stories around their personal experiences and it keeps them happy. So I let it be. But you know the real reason now, don’t you? 🙂
Although the use of spices is minimum in this recipe, Punjabis are quite liberal when it comes to ginger-garlic bits. Typically, the ginger-garlic paste is not added to this dal. But the herbs are chopped and fried with lots of onions till everything caramelises together. You may use the paste, but the real taste comes with these bits.
Another star ingredient is Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) and they really bring in an amazing flavour to this dal so keep them in the list. And don’t forget to garnish with loads of fresh coriander leaves!
What you need?
- ½ cup Chana dal (Bengal gram)
- ½ cup Urad dal dhuli (split black gram)
- 2 large tomatoes, chopped roughly
- 2 large onions, diced
- 2-3 green chilies, chopped small
- 3-4 large garlic cloves, minced or crushed
- A small piece of ginger, grated or chopped fine + a few thin slices for garnish
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- ½ turmeric powder, coriander powder each
- ¼ tsp black pepper
- 1 ½ tsp red chili powder
- 2 bay leaves
- A small pinch of grated nutmeg
- 1 tsp Garam masala
- 2 tbsp Kasuri methi
- 1 ½ tsp salt OR to taste
- A handful of fresh coriander leaves (cilantro)
- 2 tbsp oil (I used mustard oil)
- 1 tsp Kasuri methi
- 1 tsp oil
- 1 tsp Garam masala
- 1-2 dried red chilies
Soak the two lentils together in a large bowl for almost an hour. Drain all the white starch, rinse well and keep aside.
Chop all the herbs and vegetables and keep them ready.
I have used an Indian pressure cooker here to cook dal since its quicker. Check the notes if you are cooking this in an open pot/pan.
Pressure cook the dal with turmeric and 1 tsp salt and 3 cups of water till 3 whistles. Turn off and open the cooker when the pressure eases off. Check the consistency of the dal, it should be thick and should get mashed easily when stirred.
In a wide and heavy bottomed pan, heat the oil. Throw cumin seeds in it and let them splutter. Add bay leaves, let it fry for 10-12 seconds.
Add in chopped ginger, garlic and green chilies. Let them fry for half a minute on low flame. Take care not to burn them.
Add in chopped onions, mix and let everything cook for 5-6 minutes till onions turn pink-brown in colour. Keep the flame low-medium so they don’t stick and keep stirring frequently. Its an important step so have patience and let onion gets cooked properly.
Now add in tomatoes and all the spices and mix well. cook the paste, covered for about 3-5 minutes till tomatoes get mushy and cooked.
Once tomatoes are cooked and the raw smell of the spices is vanished, add cooked dal into this and mix well. Check the seasoning at this point and adjust accordingly.
Let dal simmer for another 10-12 minutes. Turn off, garnish with fresh coriander leaves and sliced ginger, serve hot
Accomplishments: Naan, Paratha, plain boiled rice, roti, raita, pickle, onion salad with a dash of lemon juice
If you are cooking in a pan:- Soak both daals for 2 hours at least. Cook for 40-45 minutes at first, covered with lid. And after mixing with the tadka, let it cook for another 15-20 minutes.
Optional tempering– I do it when I prepare this dal for guests mainly. So after the dal is cooked and all done- just before serving, I prepare a small portion of tempering and let it sizzle on the surface of the bowl when I serve. That’s how you do it- heat oil (or ghee) in a small tadka pan, add in dried red chilies, kasuri methi and garam masala and fry for just 10-12 seconds. Transfer dal into the serving bowl and pour this tempering on top. Cover the dal for a few minutes and then serve. This really brings in such amazing flavours. Of course you may try it for your family and not just guests, I am just clunky like that.
This dal is traditionally made thick so you could eat it with chapatti or roti. If you want to have it with rice, adjust the consistency accordingly.
Another Punjabi recipe which is an absolute favourite is this Red kidney beans curry –