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.
What I can talk about is this daal. I would pick kaali daal over most other meals. My husband does not feel the same, but that’s cool because I have successfully brainwashed my kids and they like it as much as I do. Kaali Daal love needs company you know?
If you asked me when I got married how many ways there are to make this daal I would have told you there is only one. Since then I have learnt that there is such a thing as the buttery creamy daal makhni and the kaali daal my father in laws family makes that is laden with pungent whole spices and a variety of ingredients. The recipe I am sharing today is the one I grew up with. It is so simple, but that small twist at the end of tamarind paste is transformative. Since I do not always have tamarind paste on hand I often squeeze in a little lemon juice instead and it works.
- 1 cup kaali daal soaked for a few hours
- Half a finely diced red onion
- ¾ tsp salt
- ¾ tsp red chilli powder
- ¼ tsp turmeric
- ½ tsp each of cumin powder and coriander powder optional
- 1 tbsp or more of tamarind paste or lemon juice
- Cilantro and diced or whole green chillies
- For baghaar/tadka/tempering:-
- 4 cloves thinly sliced garlic
- 3 dried whole red chillies
- ½-3/4 tsp of cumin seeds
- A sprig of curry leaves optional
- Neutral oil not olive oil
- Boil the daal in about two cups of water with the diced onion and spices. The cumin and coriander powder add an earthiness, but if you don’t have them handy don’t worry about it.
- When the daal is tender – this takes me about 30 minutes – then use an immersion blender to puree it a little just to thicken it. You are not going for a smooth paste, but just looking to add some body to the daal. If you do not have an immersion blender then you can leave it as is or reduce the water and stir aggressively to break down some of the whole lentils and achieve the same effect.
- Cook for another ten minutes. Adjust seasoning – this daal can take a fair bit of chilli and salt
- Take it off the flame and gradually add the tamarind paste or a squeeze of lemon juice. I suggest starting with about teaspoon of the paste and stopping when you are at “that’s an interesting flavour” not at “oh look tamarind daal”.
- Add the diced or whole green chillies and cilantro and stir through.
- For the Baghaar:- Heat oil in a small saucepan and add the garlic, cumin seeds, whole dried red chillies and curry leaves (if using). Cook on medium high heat until the garlic is delicious golden then quickly pour over your daal and cover the pot with the lid.
- Serve with rice.
Daal freezes well - make extra and freeze portions for the winter months!