Mum's Creamy Black Lentils - Kaali Maa Di Dal

Recipe from What's For Lunch, Honey? 


200g whole black lentils - black sabut urad, washed several times in cold water and soaked overnight
80g split Bengal gram - channa dal, washed several times in cold water and soaked overnight
50 - 80g red kidney beans, I used canned kidney beans, washed several times
15g fresh ginger, peeled and cut into two pieces
5-6 garlic cloves, peeled
2-3 green chillies
4 green cardamom pods
2-3 bay leaves
2 sticks cinnamon
1 teaspoon black cumin seeds
Pinch asafetida powder
1/2 teaspoon Kashmiri chili powder 
3 tablespoons ghee, use clarified butter or unsalted butter as a substitute
160g red onions, finely chopped
400g can crushed tomatoes
50ml heavy cream
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped


  1. In a large saucepan add the sabut urad and channa dal and fill with about 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil uncovered on medium heat. On the surface you will notice a foamy substance, skim off as much of this substance as possible.

  2. In a food processor add the ginger, garlic and chillies, pulsing until minced.

  3. Once the water has reached a rolling boil, add the minced ginger-garlic mixture and stir. Throw in the cardamom pods, bay leaves and cinnamon. Reduce the heat and covered, simmer gently until the legumes have softened and are cooked - about 1 hour.

  4. While the legumes are cooking, heat a skillet on medium heat and melt 2 tablespoons ghee. Once the ghee is hot add the cumin seeds and allow them to cook until they sizzle and sputter - about 5-8 seconds. Add the asafetida and Kashmiri chili powder, stir well. Finally add the chopped onions and stir-fry until golden brown - about 5 minutes.

  5. Pour in the canned tomatoes, reducing the heat to low. Simmer the sauce until the ghee (or butter) begins to separate - about 6 to 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Sprinkle some salt to taste.

  6. Once the legumes are ready - they should be soft and tender - stir in the tomato sauce. Mix until incorporated. Add about a cup of water to the skillet and scrape off any bits of the sauce, then pour it into the legumes.

  7. Add the kidney beans and simmer, covered until they are soft and tender - about 8 minutes.

  8. Pour in the cream and heat through. Stir in the remaining ghee and serve, sprinkled with chopped coriander leaves.

Serving tips:

  • This dal is just delicious with plain Basmati rice, scented with cloves and cardamom pods. It's the way my mum and I enjoy the dish best.
  • My father enjoys this with Arabic or Lebanese bread, breaking pieces off and dunking it into the creamy mixture.
  • Tom loves this in a similar way but likes using crispy rustic French baguette instead and a drizzle of fresh lime juice.
  • Soeren simply enjoys this as a soup, spooning the goodness with a huge spoon.

Food Guide Tip: Learn everything about legumes, including how to cook them, select and store them.