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Urad Dal with Coconut and Coriander

The difference between black and white urad dal (aka black gram or lentil) is that the white one has had its skin removed.

I prefer black – the skin helps the dal keep its shape and adds a pleasing bite – but white works just as well (and you don't need to soak it either).

Serves four, generously.

250g black urad (or urid) dal, soaked overnight in plenty of water
60g clarified butter or ghee
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
60g fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely grated (net weight)
1 whole green chilli, finely chopped, seeds and all
1 tbsp garam masala
5 medium tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
120g coconut cream
2 tsp lime juice
1.5 tbsp black mustard seeds, toasted

For the toppings
100g fresh coconut, roughly grated
50g crisp fried shallots (homemade or shop-bought)
30g fresh coriander, roughly chopped

Drain the dal, rinse under cold water and set aside. Put the ghee in a large sauté pan on a medium-high heat.

When it starts to sizzle, add the onion and fry for 15 minutes, stirring from time to time, until soft and golden-brown.

Add the garlic, ginger, chilli and garam masala, fry for two minutes, stirring constantly, then add the tomatoes and cook for four minutes.

Add the dahl, a litre of water and a teaspoon of salt, turn the heat to medium and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring every five minutes or so, until the sauce has the consistency of thick soup and the dal is cooked but still holding its shape.

Towards the end of cooking, if the sauce is still very liquid, bring to a rapid boil for a few minutes, to reduce.

Turn down the heat to low, stir in the coconut cream, lime juice and black mustard seeds, and remove from the heat.

Serve with the toppings in separate bowls alongside, for your guests to sprinkle on as they like.