Urad dal, that black or green skin dal, wonderfully creamy coloured under the skin, is a hard dal that takes a Life (Time) of Cooking (LOL!). Seriously, it does take a while to cook.
It took me a while to understand urad dal. I first bought some split unskinned urad, because I liked the black and whiteness of it. It sat in a wonderful glass jar in my kitchen causing much comment from people. Then I discovered the creamy coloured skinned dal that produces a much better colour when cooked. Black dal looks a bit funny when you cook with it :-(.
The first recipe I cooked with urad was a dal makhani. I must post that one day – I have three versions, all different but all very delish. One came from Nilgiris Restaurant, that iconic Indian restaurant in Sydney. One was given to me by the chef at the Taj in Bangalore, because they make an awesome dal makhani and I just had to have the recipe. And the last one was given to me by the young guy who serves at Indian Baazar here in Adelaide. He recited it to me from memory, and it is very simple. Yet it is full and rich in flavour.
Yesterday I was talking to my Punjabi Abhyanga therapist. He told me that urad dal is a favourite in Punjabi.
However, this recipe is an adaptation of a Rajastani recipe, where chilli and asafoetida powder are essential ingredients of any urad recipe. It takes a while to cook, but very little attention during that time. Good for Sunday Afternoon At Home cooking.
It is another gentle dal recipe. I am loving my experiments with gentle Indian cooking – we thrust so many robust flavours at our tastebuds every day, from strong black coffee to salty foods, to hot spicy foods, to tangy lemony dressings, to peppery pasta sauces, and so it goes on … and on …
There is a Buddhist technique to teach awareness and mindfulness. Here it is. It is good to do last thing at night or first thing in the morning before you open your eyes.
Lie down with your eyes closed. Listen to the sounds around you. Take notice of each sound and the things that you can hear. Birds, maybe. Your next door neighbour. Some building works. Traffic.
Then think of those sounds as only a layer of sounds. Putting those sounds in the background, listen for the next layer of sounds. These might be sounds from further away. A house or two away. The next road. Kids playing in the park. Birds further away.
Repeat. Pack these sounds into a layer and listen for sounds further out. Repeat with sounds further away. Repeat – still further away.
It is astounding what we can hear and how far we can hear, and the different perspective we get on our surroundings and neighbourhood.
And so it is with this gentle dal. Listen for the first tastes. Explore. Go further into the dal. Listen for other tastes. Keep your awareness going deeper into the tastes and discovering the layers, the depth of the taste.
It is astounding what we can taste.
This is a good, simple dal of medium consistency. Good served with rice and yoghurt. Add a small salad. Alternatively, thin it down slightly and eat as a soup. Yum.
Urad Tamatar Dal: Urad Dal with Tomatoes
Source : inspired by Lord Krishna’s Cuisine
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 1.5 hrs
Serves: 4 – 6 people, depending how you use it
0.66 cup split urad dal, without skins
6 cups water (1.5 litres)
0.5 tspn turmeric
3 Tblspn ghee – use vegetable oil for a vegan dish
3 medium tomatoes, each cut into 8 – 10 pieces
1.25 tspn salt
2 Tblspn finely chopped coriander/cilantro or parsley
1.5 tspn finely chopped or minced ginger
1.5 tspn cumin seeds
1 – 2 whole red dried chillies broken into bits
pinch asafoetida powder
Sort out any foreign material from the urad dal, wash under running water for several minutes, and drain the split urad dal.
Place the water, turmeric and a dab of the ghee into a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
Add the dal and bring back to the boil.
Reduce the heat to moderately-low, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes. Add the tomatoes. Cover and continue cooking for 1 hour or until the dal is soft and fully cooked. Remove from the heat and add the salt. Stir well.
Heat the ghee in a small pan over moderately high heat. Add the ginger root, cumin seeds and red chilli. Fry until the cumin and chilli turn brown. Add the asafoetida powder, sauté for 2 seconds and then quickly pour the tadka into the dal. Stir the dal, cover and allow to sit for 1 – 2 minutes.
Add the parsley or coriander, stir and serve. Nice with rice.
[UPDATE: this has since become a favourite of my daughter. Every time I visit I have to make bucket loads of it.]