We love urad lentils, particularly Urad Dal cooked with tomatoes, so when we found Ottolenghi’s recipe for Urad Dal with Coconut and Coriander in his book Plenty More, it sparked interest. He talks about his inspiration, Aasmah Mir from cookingcurries.com and the Pakistani family recipes on that site.
His recipe treats some ingredients a little differently than my usual South Indian way, so I have modified the recipe to accommodate that.
This time previous years I was making: Crispy Garlic and Sage, Baked Apricots with Honey and Orange, A Lovely Pumpkin Soup, A Spicy Cucumber Salad with Poppy Seeds, and Japanese Baked Eggplant with Miso and Sesame.
Garam Masala is better at the end of cooking
Garam Masala is better added towards the end of cooking. Ground garam masala powder is typically added at the end of the cooking process to preserve the aroma and taste of the warm spices, giving a dish a real lift of flavor before serving. Since many Indian sauces (including this recipe) are long-simmering, adding garam masala powder at the beginning would mute the flavors of the spices. Garam Masala is more of a finishing spice than a cooking spice.
Another way of using Garam Masala is to add the whole spices at the beginning of the cooking – cinnamon sticks, Indian Bay Leaf, cardamom pods and cloves. The powders can be saved for the end of the cooking.
Black Mustard Seeds are better “popped”
The other change that I make is to pop the mustard seeds, as this recipe has quite a lot of them. This changes the flavour from a mustardy tang to a nutty, mellow flavour. To pop them, just heat them in hot ghee until they pop and dance around in the oil.
I also reduced the amount of mustard seeds. Please don’t blame me, I cook South Indian style. 🙂 Ottolenghi uses 1.5 Tblspns, I reduce it to 1 Tablespoon.
Black Urad vs White Urad Dal (also called Urid Dal)
The difference between black and white urad dal (also called black gram) is that the white one has had its skin removed. Either works well. Black urad adds a dark colour and flavour, but today I had white in my pantry.
Urad Dal is also sold either split in two, or whole. Usually I use the split dal – I like the texture of the cooked dish a little better. But I have been experimenting with whole urad lately, so this dish is made with whole, white urad.
Split urad dal does not need a lot of soaking, whole white urad benefits from a couple of hours pre soaking if you can manage it, and whole black urad should be soaked overnight.
Urad dal can be bought at a lot of health shops, and at Indian groceries.
You might like to read this article on urad dal.
Urad Dal with Tomatoes, Coconut and Coriander
Source : Adapted from Plenty More
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 60 mins
Serves: 4 – 6 people, depending how you use it
250g black or white urad dal, split or whole
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
60g fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely grated
1 green chilli, finely chopped, seeds and all
1 Tbsp garam masala
5 medium tomatoes, chopped small
salt to taste
120g coconut cream
2 tspn lime juice
2 Tblspn ghee
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds
100g fresh coconut, roughly grated – or use frozen grated coconut or good quality dried shredded coconut
50g crisp fried shallots (homemade or shop-bought)
30g fresh coriander, roughly chopped
If you have time, soak the Urad Dal overnight. If this is not possible, you may have to cook the dal longer.
Drain the soaked dal, rinse under cold water and set aside.
Put the ghee in a large pan on a medium-high heat. When the ghee begins to sizzle, add the chopped onion and fry for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until soft and golden-brown.
Add the garlic, ginger and chilli and fry for two minutes, stirring constantly. Then add the chopped tomatoes and cook for four minutes.
Add the dahl, a litre of water and a teaspoon of salt, turn the heat to medium and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, until the sauce has the consistency of thick soup and the dal is cooked but still holding its shape. Towards the end of cooking, if the sauce is still very liquid, bring to a rapid boil for a few minutes, to reduce.
Turn down the heat to low, stir in the coconut cream, lime juice and garam masala, and remove from the heat.
Heat the 2 Tblsp ghee in a small saute pan and when it is hot, add the mustard seeds. Allow them to pop, and then pour the oil and seeds onto the dal and mix.
The toppings make this dish, so don’t skimp on them. Serve with the toppings in separate bowls alongside, for your guests to sprinkle on as they like.
The gentle creaminess of these lentils really demands things crispy and crunchy, so I like to add some poppadoms along side the dish.
Enjoy! Love to you.