Make Ahead

White Urad Dal with Cashews and Cumin

January 20, 2011
0 Ratings
  • Makes 1 1/2 cups
Author Notes

The combination of onion, bay, cinnamon, cashews and cumin is one I discovered many years ago, in a recipe by Julie Sahni for a basmati and broccoli pilaf. I’ve had a lot of fun using this quintet in a lot of different ways over the years. The white dal provide a pleasant, almost neutral background for the combination in this spread. You could use red lentils, but the white are better, because they hold their shape well. Moreover, they have a creamy, almost luxurious texture when pureed. Also, it’s important to use ghee, as its flavor is essential here. Make your own -- Frances RenHuang posted an excellent recipe for it here on food52 -- and let it get a little brown, for a rich, nutty taste. And if, on the outside chance, you have some of this left over (or if you do what I shamelessly would, which is to hoard some of it before putting it out for your guests), it’s terrific for lunch, stirred into cooked brown rice or whatever whole grains you have on hand. Enjoy!! —AntoniaJames

What You'll Need
  • 2 tablespoons ghee, divided
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Salt
  • 1 tablespoon whole cumin seeds
  • ¾ cup white urad dal
  • 1 ¼ cup whole raw cashews
  1. In a small, heavy saucepan with a lid, cook the onion, bay leaf and cinnamon stick in one tablespoon of the ghee, with a medium pinch of salt, over medium low heat, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile, toast the cumin seeds in a small skillet until just fragrant, then immediately remove them from the skillet to a small bowl. Crush half of them with a mortar and pestle.
  3. Rinse the dal in a bowl of water, four or five times, until the water runs clear. With about ½ cup of water remaining in the bowl, set it aside.
  4. When the onion is translucent and soft, push it aside to make a bald spot in the middle of the pot. Add the crushed cumin and cook it briefly, then stir it into the other ingredients.
  5. Add the dal, the water in the bowl and another 2 cups of water and turn the heat up to medium high.
  6. Allow the mixture to come to a boil, stirring frequently, then turn the heat down to low.
  7. Simmer the mixture with the lid on for about 30 minutes, checking and stirring every five minutes or so, to prevent the dal from sticking and scorching. Add more water if necessary to prevent them from drying out.
  8. Toast the cashews until they are a mottled light and dark brown in color. Remove from the pan, cool for a few minutes, and then chop them coarsely, using a chef’s knife. They will be soft and easy to cut.
  9. The dal will be done when they are tender, while retaining their shape.
  10. Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Using an immersion blender (or in a regular blender or food processor), puree about half of the dal mixture.
  11. Add half of the chopped cashews and stir well. Test for salt and correct, if necessary.
  12. Warm the remaining ghee and toss the remaining chopped cashews and the remaining toasted cumin seeds with a tiny pinch of salt.
  13. Put the dal into a serving bowl and top with the cashew and cumin seed mixture.
  14. Enjoy!!
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  • luvcookbooks
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  • hardlikearmour

Recipe by: AntoniaJames

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5 Reviews

luvcookbooks April 13, 2011
Made this on the weekend for dinner with rice, it was delicious! I stirred in some fresh coriander at the end and served it with lemon pickle and plain yogurt.
AntoniaJames January 21, 2011
Thanks, HLA! Good for breakfast, too, as noted in the comment I just posted. Toasted cashews, cumin and ghee make just about anything really delicious. (I posted a broccoli recipe featuring that trio a few weeks ago . . . . ) I always make extra topping and keep a little jar with the other condiments in my fridge. Perks up any stirred-together lunch or snack!. ;o)
healthierkitchen January 21, 2011
Sounds delicious! What do you like to dip into it? Toasted bits of naan? Vegetables?
AntoniaJames January 21, 2011
Thanks, HK! Typically, both, crudités and little wedges of pita, naan or other flatbreads. I would have included some homemade pita chips in the photo, but I completely incinerated them while "just" cleaning up a few things after I'd popped them under the broiler. I also eat this stuff for breakfast with a bit of jaggery and ghee, stirred into steel cut oats and brown or mixed wild rice/grains. It's sort of an amped-up version of my sweet and savory porridge that I recently posted. (I'll be posting another version of it, with the cinnamon stick and bay leaves, but not the onions, within the next day or so.) I love savory breakfasts, especially when they are in the "leftovers for breakfast" category. ;o)
hardlikearmour January 21, 2011
This sounds great, AJ, and I love your lunch idea!