I was eating out with my wife, Caroline and a group of friends about a month ago and struck up a conversation with our waiter. He was from New Delhi and told us all about the recipes his mother used to make him that he missed here in the UK.
I’d spoken to him on several occasions over the years but this time he told us all about how he was a bit homesick for New Delhi. He mentioned that his favourite food was Punjabi food and stressed that the food he ate at home in New Delhi was a lot better than was served in the curry house.
As I know my fair share of authentic Punjabi recipes, Caroline and I decided we had to invite him to dinner at our house with the same group of friends that were there that night. He accepted without hesitation.
I made a large selection of Punjabi favourites including butter chicken, rogan josh, tandoori prawns and naans served with homemade pickles and chutneys and this black lentil dhal.
You know when you’ve got it right when your Punjabi guest – who has never cooked Indian food in his life – suddenly says ‘This is just like my mother’s recipe!’
He loved the whole meal but could not get over the flavours in this black lentil dhal – his favourite comfort food from home.
The funny thing is, it really isn’t all that complicated. Black lentil dhal is quite simple to make and doesn’t require a lot of hard to find ingredients.
Here I would like to share with you the exact recipe I used to make the dish. It serves eight as a side dish. If I had known how much he loved black dhal, I would have doubled the recipe.
International & UK Orders
- 500g urad dhal (whole black lentils)
- 100g channa dhal (yellow split lentils)
- 75g butter
- 2 tablespoons ginger paste
- 2 tablespoons garlic paste
- 3 fresh green chillies - finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon red chilli powder
- 1 tablespoon cumin powder
- 50ml single cream
- 3 fresh green chillies - split in half lengthwise and seeded
- 2 tablespoons tomato puree
- 400ml chopped tomatoes
- A pinch of dried fenugreek leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- garam masala
- A handful of chopped coriander
- Rinse the lentils under cold water to remove any starch and then place them in a large bowl.
- Cover with fresh water and allow to soak overnight.
- The next day, drain the lentils and give them one last good rinse.
- Then, place the lentils in a large pot and cover them with water. I usually cover them with about an inch or two of water and almost always have to add more water during cooking.
- Bring the water to a boil and then simmer for about one hour or until the lentils are soft.
- Meanwhile, pour the chopped tomatoes, garlic and ginger pastes, the green chopped chillies, dried fenugreek leaves and the red chilli powder in a blender and blend to a smooth paste.
- Pour this into the lentils and stir to combine.
- Throw in the sliced green chillies and allow to simmer for a further 30 minutes. You may need to add a little water during this time.
- to finish
- You can either blend the lentils or leave them as they are. I like the blended version.
- Pour in the cream and then add the butter one tablespoon at a time while stirring continuously.
- Taste and then add just enough salt and pepper to make this the brilliant dish that it is.
- Sprinkle a little garam masala on top along with the coriander and serve immediately.
- Black lentil dhal can also be served as a main meal with rice or naans and a green salad.