Kaali or Sabut Masoor ki Daal is made from brown lentils and is one of my favourites despite its misnomer of a name. You see kaali means black, but this daal is decidedly brown. Black or brown I love it’s bold heartiness, it’s comforting warmth and it certainly does not hurt that it is so nutritious.
The flavour of kaali daal alone isn’t what makes it one of my favourites. It is also the associated memories. It is that first meal back from a year away at college and the simple meal that I associate with the breaking of the fast on the tenth of Muharram. We are Shia Muslims and for us the Battle of Karbala is a defining moment in the history of Islam. I have made several attempts to write about what that means to us, but find that words fail me. Tamania of Super Urdu Mom and one of my favourite bloggers does a far better job and you can read her piece over here.
Mondays are for daal. The kind of daal that is easy to make and equally good with roti or rice. The kind of daal that you can even give the greatest compliment of all to – eating it with a spoon. For me that is most of the daals my mother makes including this one. When I make this moong ki daal it tastes and feels like home. If I close my eyes for a second I can almost hear the lazy hum of the fan, sense the inescapable humidity, and feel the almost flaky texture of homemade rotis as I tear a piece off to scoop up some of my moong daal.
I was thinking the other day about how surprising I find it when readers reach out to me and ask how to make daal, but as I type this now I get it. Daal is at the core of Pakistani home cooking and nothing is better, healthier or more satisfying. The ‘bazaari’ (store bought) daals can be delicious, but don’t hold a candle to the simple goodness of homemade ones.
So what’s the trick you ask, what makes one daal so ho hum and others so delicious. Seasoning. It is that simple, when you don’t have enough salt in a curry it’ll be disappointing and that’s when there are lots of other elements at play. Daal is simple and needs it’s few ingredients to show up. Start with my recommended amount and taste before serving. Adjust bit by bit till it’s eat with a spoon ready.
Mama Jafri the formidable lady who brought me and my four other siblings into this world is a helluva cook. I don’t know how she does it – really I don’t, but that’s largely because she somehow manages to give me only half the ingredients in a recipe. Apparently if I want the full list then I should say something like “Mama, what should I put in it if I want it to be delicious?” She seems to think the standard assumption is that I am aiming for mediocrity.
Anyway, I digress, back to Mama J and her amazing cooking. She is not one for rules, more of the creative sort and to this day I have no idea when or where she got this particular recipe for daal (lentils) from, but it has become a family favourite and it is what I make on the days when I am feeling homesick. On some of those days it tastes exactly like moms.
This daal is characterized by an over the top tanginess which is a result of the double whammy of tomato paste and lemon. The garlic in it also adds a wonderful rich note. The best part is that it actually keeps very well, if anything it gets tastier.
Daal and I are besties, it is my go to when I am happy and sad and every thing in between. When it is exceptionally good like this chanay ki daal then happiness is a natural by product of eating. And it’s easy; as many of you know I am not the kind of cook that delights in things that are not. I also really love a more liqiuid-y chanay ki daal, but since that is on my TBM (to be mastered) list that one will have to wait to make it to the blog. If any of you have a go to recipe then I would love to try it!
This recipe for a ‘dhaba style’ (roadside restaurant) dry chanay ki daal is one of those that I started making not that long ago. I find it is at its most delicious when I use fresh ginger – hence the grating. It is about a minute more of work – 10 seconds to grate, 50 to wash – but so worth it for the depth that it provides to this daal.
Also please note the super cute grown up measuring cup in the first shot, my friend Aalya gave that to me for my birthday last year, makes even daal seem fancy!