Daddy, my father-in-law, needs his daal ("lentil" in Urdu) fix daily. We usually make the wet, soupy version, which he considers tastier because of baghar (common red chili oil layer). But every now and then, Daddy asks for sukhi mash ki daal. "Sukhi" is in reference to a dry lentil preparation. I used urad dal and cooked the lentils with caramelized onions, fresh chiles, garlic, ginger and cumin seeds.
Urad dal is a great source of protein and iron and it's pretty low in calories. The caramelized onions provide the extra oomph of natural sweetness and are balanced with a little kick from the freshly grated ginger. The result is as tasty, healthier version of an Indian staple. We usually make mash ki daal with freshly homemade roti (Indian flat bread). Daddy often likes to spread a little bit ghee (clarified butter) when my mother-in-law's not watching!
If you have leftover lentils, you can add grilled vegetables the following day. It makes a great salad for a light lunch.
Servings: 4 servings
1-¼ cups urad dal (see picture below)
1-½ yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds, slightly toasted and ground
1/8 teaspoon turmeric powder
3 jalapeño peppers
1 teaspoon salt
1 lime, freshly squeezed
1 tablespoon cilantro and mint leaves, for garnish
3 tablespoons canola oil (or any neutral oil)
Prepping the chiles: Using a paring knife, create a 2-inch incision in the jalapeño peppers. For less heat, remove the seeds (don't forget to wear disposable gloves). Set aside.
Prepping ginger: Clean the chunk of fresh ginger, carefully removing any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife or the edge of a spoon, then grate it using a Microplane.
Soaking the urad dal: In a bowl, wash the urad dal thoroughly. Pick out and discard any badly-shaped lentils, then soak them in about 1 quart water for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight. Drain as much liquid as possible. Set aside.
In a large pan, heat the canola oil. Add the yellow onions and cook for about 6-8 minutes until soft and nicely golden. Leaving as much oil as possible in the pan, transfer to a platter. Set aside.
In the same pan, add the chiles and cook until softened. Add lentils, ginger, turmeric and ground cumin. Add about 3/4 cup water (as needed) and stir. Bring to a boil without covering then lower to medium heat and cook for about 15 minutes. Check the softness, add a little more water and continue cooking if necessary (I didn't). If the lentils start sticking to the bottom, add a little more water (¼ cup). Season with salt. Turn off the heat. Add the reserved caramelized onions, cilantro and mint (if used). Gently stir the lentils without mashing them. Cover and let stand until you're ready to serve.
Drizzle with lime juice when you're ready to serve. You could place little mounds of ghee all over the lentils if you like.
Serve warm or at room temperature with roti or basmati rice on the side.