This recipe was requested by Max- A reader with an inspiring passion for Gujarati food.
Prepare yourselves to be psychologically transported to Gujarat with this hearty daal dish. Urad daal (also known as black gram) are used all over India, in a huge variety of dishes. They make hearty lunch or dinner stews in Northern and Western India, whereas they grace the breakfast tables of South Indian homes in their skinned-split form. These lentils are so versatile; they can be used whole, split or ground to make curries, soups, steamed savoury cakes (idlis) and even those notoriously delicious lentil pancakes (dosa).
The earthy, iron-richness of the whole lentils make a traditional and popular meal for peasant workers on Indian farms, and can be served with a variety of breads like naan, chapattis and rotla, and also plain basmati rice. Add plenty of butter or ghee at your will (and mine), although this will not be necessary to add creaminess to the dish. When cooked, urad daal bleed a thick, glutinous liquid which will make your finished dish rich, creamy and thoroughly delicious. Butter or ghee will give your urad daal a beautiful flavour which marries delightfully with the spiciness of the dish.
Some Hindus believe that urad daal should be traditionally made into a stew like this on Saturday, for Saturday represents the day of the monkey god, Lord Hanuman. Lord Hanuman is worshipped each week on this day, and belief has it that he gathered his otherworldly strength from eating such lentils. Urad daal is packed with vitamins, protein and iron, so move over Popeye- Hanuman’s in town and he brings with him the strength of one thousand elephants, and karahi’s full of spicy urad daal!
Gujarati-Style Urad Daal
(Serves 4 people as a main dish or 6 as a starter or side)
1 ¼ cups whole urad daal, soaked in warm water for 2-4 hours
3 cups hot water (or more to cook the lentils if you don’t have a pressure cooker)
1 ½ tbsp garlic, minced
4-5 hot green chillies, minced (or to taste)
1 tbsp ginger, minced
½ cup tomatoes, pureed
2 tbsp ghee (plus more for serving- optional) or oil for a vegan option
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
8-10 curry leaves
¼ tsp asafoetida (optional)
½ tsp turmeric
1 ½ tsp salt (or to taste)
½ tsp dried, powdered sour mango (amchur) or 1 tbsp lemon juice
Extra 2-3 cups hot water
½ cup fresh coriander, chopped
1. Boil the urad daal in plenty of water until just past the al dente stage (they need to be quite soft to ooze that glutinous liquid). If you have a pressure cooker, use 3 cups of water and wait for about 10 whistles. Set this aside.
2. In a large pan, heat the ghee (or oil for a vegan option) and add the mustard seeds. Wait for them to pop, and then add the cumin seeds, curry leaves and asafoetida.
3. Quickly add the tomatoes, garlic, ginger and chillies. Cook this mixture out on a medium heat for around 5 minutes. Add the turmeric and cook for a further minute.
4. Add the cooked urad daal and mix thoroughly. Add around 2-3 cups of hot water and stir constantly for 1-2 minutes to gain a glutionous, creamy consistency.
5. Add salt and amchur powder or lemon and taste for seasoning. Stir in the coriander and serve hot with lashings of butter or ghee.