Tastes like the Earth [Amritsari Kali Daal]

My weekly grocery budget is just $80 for two people, but it always has an allowance for fresh herbs.

I want an herb garden at home, but we just don’t have the space.

Gardening isn’t my forté, anyways.

I’m interested, just not well-practiced. Exhibit A: when I accidentally killed my mum’s roses by planting fennel beside them (didya get that, mum?). Apparently fennel plants are poisonous to other plants.

We Zees come from a long line of farmers and green thumbs, though. My mum’s granda was even one of those archetypal estate gardeners back in the U.K.


Clockwise from top: red kidney beans, ginger, garlic, dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi), garam masala and red chili powder.

This recipe for kali daal, or black lentils, is chock-full of herbs — fresh and dry. It includes fenugreek leaves, cilantro and mint.

Mint is the finishing touch because its refreshing and warming flavours accent the earthy flavours of the fenugreek leaves and  kali daal.

Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves)are fragrant, earthy and somewhat bitter.

Kali daal is most often made into daal makhni, or butter lentils. Daal makhni is delicious, but very heavy. It’s about half butter and cream and half lentils. Daal makhni traditionally takes 48 hours to cook, too.

My much lighter and faster recipe originates from Amritsar, the city of the Golden Temple.

Amritsari Kali Daal

1 ¼ cup (250g) whole black lentils (also known as urad or kali daal)
1 medium onion, diced fine
2 tbsp ginger, minced
2 tbsp garlic, minced
5 heaping spoonfuls crushed tomato
1 cup (250 ml) cooked red kidney beans
Small pinch asafoetida powder
1 tbsp garam masala
2 tsp red chili powder
2 tbsp kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves), crushed
2 tbsp cilantro leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup heavy cream
¼ cup (50g) butter
¼ cup (60ml) mint leaves, torn
6 cups (1.42L) water, more as needed
salt, to taste
Ginger julienne, cilantro and mint leaves for garnishing
ghee for frying

Rinse the lentils. Soak overnight. Drain soaking water

Heat 3 tbsp ghee in a heavy-bottomed pot. Sweat the onion. Sprinkle asafoetida. Stir. Add the ginger and garlic. Stir. Fry gently until the raw smell disappears.

Add soaked daal, crushed tomato, 6 cups water and 1 tsp salt. Simmer over medium-low flame for about 1.5 hours, stirring often and adding more water as necessary. Daal should be tender, but not completely mashed.

Add kidney beans, garam masala and red chili. Simmer 15 minutes.

Reduce heat to low and stir in the butter. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring constantly to ensure that the butter doesn’t separate from the daal. Add kasuri methi and cilantro leaves. Simmer 5 minutes.

Remove from heat. Stir in cream and torn mint leaves. Adjust seasoning.

Garnish and serve with aloo gobhi and basmati rice.

The daal should look like this after the first 1.5 hours of cooking.


One thought on “Tastes like the Earth [Amritsari Kali Daal]

  1. Pingback: Daal Makhni (Creamy Black Lentil Daal) | Lee's Ghee ~ Gheelicious!

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