Maa Ki Dal (Black Lentil Dal)

This traditional recipe from the North Indian state of Punjab uses whole black lentils. This is not a lentil that I normally stock in my pantry. The urge was upon me to have maa ki dal – which I requested Hari quite a few times. Every time, the response was that we did not have any whole black lentils stocked. I always made a note to pick up some the next time I travelled from home – but invariably forgot this task. And the urge to have this preparation grew stronger. So, about a week ago, I made a trip to the market just to buy whole black lentils. And did remember to ask Hari to make this dal – which he did with alacrity. And, I must confess, I overate! So here is the recipe for this very traditional Punjabi dish.

Maa Ki Dal

1 cup whole black lentils (sabut urad dal, karuppu ulunthu)
2 tomatoes, pureed (just drop the tomatoes into the blender and make a smooth paste)
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1″ piece ginger, crushed (no need to peel)
1 green chili, chopped fine
1/2 tsp cumin seeds (sabut jeera, jeeragam)
A generous pinch of turmeric powder (haldi, manjal podi)
1/2 tsp red chili powder
A generous pinch of garam masala powder
1 tsp peanut butter (optional)
Salt to taste
1 tbsp chopped coriander leaves to garnish
Rinse the black lentils well and for about 30 minutes
Drain and transfer to a pressure cooker
Add about 4 cups of water
Cover and cook for 7-8 whistles
Let the steam release naturally and open the lid
Mash the black lentils
Set aside
Heat a vessel, set on low flame, and add the cumin seeds
When they begin to splutter, add the chopped onion
Sauté the onion till it turns translucent
Add the pureed tomato and mix well
Add the ginger and garlic
Add the turmeric powder, chili powder and garam masala
Mix well
Add the chopped green chili
Sauté on low flame till you get the aroma of the spice powders
If using, add the peanut butter at this stage
Add the whole black lentils and cook on medium flame for about 12-15 minutes (this dal is meant to be thick and creamy)
Remove from flame and garnish with the chopped coriander leaves
Serve hot with Indian breads or red/brown rice

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