If I wasn’t such a fan of South Indian food, culture, arts, music, temples, rituals and everything else that is predominately from Tamil Nadu, I might have fallen in love with the Punjab. Punjabi food is wholesome and full of rustic flavour. The custom of cooking in community ovens or tandoors can still be found in rural areas even today. The cuisine is characterised by a profusion of dairy products in the form of malai (cream), paneer and dahi (yoghurt). And also the dals are a speciality of Punjabi cuisine, made of whole pulses like black gram (urad), green gram (mung) and Bengal gram (channa). They are cooked in covered earthen pots on a slow fire clay oven fueled with dung-cakes, often simmered for hours till they turn creamy, and then flavoured with spices and rounded off with cream and butter for that rich finish. The food is simply delicious. Thanks to Sanjeev Kapoor for part of this information.
Urad lentils are favourites in the Punjabi cuisine, and take so well to the long slow cooking. This dish is soothing and gentle, despite the large amounts of garlic and ginger. Their assertiveness is overcome by the long slow cooking time. The dish is generally quite mild in its spiciness.
Dal Amritsari, as the name suggests is a dal from the city of Amritsar in the Punjab region of North India. Two lentils are combined – urad which is slightly glutinous, and channa which is more crumbly.
There are no spices used in this recipe, only cumin. It is a dal bursting with simple rustic flavors and subtle sweetness. The next day the dal tastes even better.
At home, one can easily achieve the slow cooking with the use of a slow cooker. Of course, the smokiness imparted to the foods as it cooks slowly over the dying embers of wood fires is not there, but in a home situation it is the best that we can do.
This dish is loved and often served at Sikh gurdwaras (temples) as well as in all Punjabi homes as part of an every day meal. Eat with some Punjabi bread, some vegetables and Indian pickles. The recipe is from Madhur Jaffrey’s Flavours of India.
Ma Choleyan di Dal | Amritsari Dal
0.75 cup whole black gram (urad lentils)
0.75 cup channa dal (Bengal gram)
salt to taste
1 Tblsp finely chopped garlic
1 Tblsp finely chopped ginger
3 Tblsp ghee
1 tspn cumin seeds
1 medium onion, finely chopped
0.5 Tblspn garlic, finely chopped
0.5 Tblspn ginger, finely chopped
4 – 5 green chillies, finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tspn garam masala
generous dollop of butter (optional)
fresh mint or coriander, coarsely chopped, to garnish (optional)
Wash both lentils and soak for at least 2 hours.
Drain the lentils and place into the slow cooker with 5 – 6 cups of water, 1 Tblsp garlic and 1 Tblsp ginger. Cover and allow to cook for 5 or 6 hours. I like to cook them on high for the first 4 hours, and then on low for the remaining cooking.
Heat the ghee in a kadhai or pan over a medium high heat and add the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 15 seconds, then add the onion. Stir fry this until the onion is golden brown. Add the remaining garlic and ginger and continue to stir fry for 5 minutes. Add the chillies and tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes are soft. Add a little water if necessary.
Add this spice mixture to the lentils, stir, and continue to cook on low for 3 – 4 hours until the dal is fairly thick and smooth. You may need to whisk them a little to get them to break down.
Mix in the garam masala, and garnish with a dollop of butter and fresh mint or green coriander.
Cream can be liberally added to the finished dish.
Chilli powder and coriander powder ca be added to the onions and tomatoes.