Urad lentils, in all their forms, and one of our favourite lentils, partly because of a dal that we made a long, long time ago. We love it. My daughter and I, at our respective places, still often make that recipe in bulk and freeze it for those busy winter evenings when you just need to grab something from the freezer to avoid ordering pizza or buying bags of chips.
Urad dal needs special handling. It needs long cooking, and is best keep soupy (in my opinion). It is a common dal in North Indian cooking, especially in the Punjab, and goes well with tomatoes, onions, butter, cream and yoghurt.
In this dish we are cooking it with onions – in fact onions 4 ways if you include the optional onion garnishes. It has sauteed onions, pureed onions, raw onions and crispy fried onions. It is a deep, earthy flavoured dish, dark coloured from the unhulled lentils, and cooked as it should be, long and slow. You could also do this in a slow cooker, should you wish too.
Urad Dal with Onions
100g split or whole, unhulled urad
5 black peppercorns
4 green cardamom, cracked
1 black cardamom
1 Indian bay leaf, teja pata
1 white onion, finely sliced
1 Tblspn mustard oil or ghee
0.5 Tblspn ginger-garlic paste
0.5 onion, blended to a puree
0.5 tspn Indian chilli powder, or to taste
0.5 tspn turmeric powder
75g Indian (Desi) or Greek yoghurt
sea salt to taste
garnishes – use any one or more of
crispy fried onion (home made or purchased)
raw onion slices
a small amount of butter
Heat the oil in a pan and add the spices (cloves, peppercorns, green cardamom, black cardamom and bay leaf) and saute until a nice aroma arises or seeds crackle. Add the onions and saute until browning well.
Add the urad dal and stir well to mix with the spices then cover very well with water. Bring to the boil and simmer for 45 minutes.
Now add the ginger-garlic paste, the onion paste, the chilli powder and turmeric powder. Stir well, and bring back to a simmer. Continue to cook for another 45 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Stir in the yoghurt, and serve drizzled with a little mustard oil and garnished with coriander seeds and crispy fried onions.
recipe notes and alternatives
Serve with Black Pepper and Cumin Rice.