Sunday, 18 November 2012

Maa ki daal (Mother's daal)

Maa ki daal is my all time favourite!  It is also known as Daal makhani (makhani means creamy) in some eating establishments as it is so creamy.

Maa is hindi for 'Mother' hence I call it mother's daal, I always tell my kids it is called this as it has a lot of love in it.  This dish is a speciality of Punjab, where my father is from and it is a really hearty dish.

We call most beans and lentils daal but this one is  also known as Whole Urid/Urad beans, Black gram, black lentils. You can buy these lentils in some English supermarkets but mainly in indian shops.

You can cook this as a vegan or vegetarian dish I shall give both variations so you can choose.  Maa ki daal makes a great main with vegetable pillau rice or plain rice or roti or serve it with side dishes, it is another daal  that marries well with other dishes.

You can also decide to make this dish Sathvick just remove the garlic and onions, it takes on a whole new flavour complex.

Ingredients for serving 4

  • I cup of urad beans, washed.  Wash the daal well in a sieve, or bowl until it runs clean. 
  • A handful of Kidney beans, prepare as Urad. These are best soaked in double their volume of water together overnight.
Tarka - We cook the daal and tarka separately and then combine them.
  • 3tbsp Light olive oil or (Ghee-clarified butter if you are making this vegetarian, this is the authentic choice)
  • 1/2 tsp dried ground ginger
  • 1/2 Chopped onion
  • 1" fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped/ grated
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped finely
  • 1 -2 fresh green chilli's chopped (the more you put in the hotter it gets)  Optional
  • 1/2 tin tomatoes or 2 fresh tomatoes chopped 
  • 1 tsp Cumin/ Jeera
  • 1/2 tsp Oragano seeds/ Ajowan seeds (optional)
  • 1/2 tsp Garam masala
  • 1/2 tsp Turmeric/ Haldi
  • 1-2 tsp salt
  • Hand full of fresh chopped coriander


  1. If you can't soak it overnight, then soak in boiling hot water for a couple of hours or pressure cook the daal for 20mins and then go to 3.  I think it is best cooked slowly in a pan, but if your short of time, then you have the choice.
  2. Add your washed daal to a thick based pan, and top up with 3" or 8cm boiling water from kettle (this just speeds up the cooking). Cover and set it going at a rolling boil so the beans will boil and cook but not boil over.  It takes about 30-40mins for them to cook, but the final dish needs 6 hours to taste really good.  This daal tends to be quite thirsty, so if you see it is cooking dry just top it up with more water, if you accidently add too much it is not a problem, just leave it to simmer without a lid on. When your beans are cooked use your ladle or a potato masher and mash a bit of the daal to help thicken it. Keep stirring occasionally.
  3. Add your dry ground ginger and salt to the pan while the beans are cooking. While these are cooking we can cook our Tarka.
  4. In a second pan add your oil/ghee, set the pan at a slow heat this is the secret to good tasting Indian cooking, this recipe is very similar to other daal recipes given.  Add your cumin seeds and ajowan seeds, when they begin to crackle add your onion.
  5. Cook the onion till it is light brown and then add your ginger and chilli, stirring frequently.
  6. Continue to cook this till the ginger is brown too, if the ginger starts to stick to the pan just add a couple of tea spoons of water and stir until it comes free.
  7. Once the mix is caramel coloured, add your dry spices and salt and tomatoes, you have now made your tarka.
  8. Continue to cook this for a few more minutes until it is bubbling together nicely and the tomatoes have started breaking down, then add the tarka to your daal pot!  Add a little of the daal liquor to your tarka pan to make sure you get all the yummy spices and oil off and add back to the daal pot.
  9. I like to cook my Maa ki daal for a good six hours in total, but it can cook in as little as three sometimes the lentils vary.  It won't do it any harm for longer cooking, just make sure you don't forget to stir.  Taste it and add more salt if you like more, I do add a bit more salt to this daal.
  10. Last stage is to add your coriander and serve with rice or roti and dollop of butter, enjoy! 

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