Sunday, March 20, 2011

Urad Dal

When I visited the Asian Supermarket in Albany a couple of weeks ago, I bought several bags of mystery legumes, including a 2 lb bag of urad dal. Urad dal is a type of bean product from India. Specifically it come from matpe peas. Matpe peas are small, round, black peas. When you split matpe peas and mill the black skin from them you end up small, cream-colored dried disks - urad dal.

I have never cooked urad dal before, so I did a little internet research before I started. I read that after soaking, urad dal would take about 3 hours to cook. That didn't seem possible for such little beans that looked a lot like lentils. I was very skeptical, but they did indeed take a very long time to cook. The soup I made this week used a couple of exotic ingredients, namely the urad dal and the Indian spice blend garam masala. Garam masala is a blend of ground Indian spices. Preparation and components vary; the one that I have contains coriander, red chili, cumin, clove, anistar, mace, fennel, black pepper, bay leaves, cinnamon, dried mango, salt, and clove leaves. If you get a chance to buy these 2 unusual ingredients, the soup itself was very simple and turned out well.

I started by heating some olive oil in my soup pot, while I chopped up 3 medium onions, 3 cloves of garlic and a 2 inch piece of fresh ginger. These went into the hot oil. I stirred them until the onions were translucent and then I threw in about 3 Tbs of garam masala - I'm not exactly sure because I didn't measure and for a while I feared I had used too much but in the end it turned out fine.

I stirred constantly while the spice was in the oil and it became darker and thickened much like a roux. I quicked added some water, my rinsed urad dal and then more water, reduce the heat and let the pot simmer. And simmer. And simmer. I stirred often, checking during every timeout in the men's NCAA basketball tournament game Kansas vs. Boston U. Even after my beloved Jayhawks were victorious, the dal was still not done.

When the dal was finally tender and the liquid thick - I added water a few more times - I added a large bag of frozen chopped spinach and a tsp of salt.

This soup has a thick consistency like runny oatmeal. In fact, it was really good for breakfast the next morning. 2 lbs of urad dal made a LOT of soup.

On Sunday at Bulls Head Friends Meeting we had our monthly potluck and program. I had enough soup that I heated half of it for the potluck and packaged the other half for Friends to take home.

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