Having your mother cook for you is one of those rare pleasures to truly cherish. I only see my mother a few times a year and I try my hardest not to shadow her every move. Or to annoy her too much with endless requests for her to make our favourites.

If your mother’s cooking repertoire is anything like mine, the fare is homely, rustic even. But nothing could compare. I ran around my mother jotting this recipe down as she sprinkled, tossed and stirred.

The moong dhal (Indian mung beans) are a lovely military green and available from Indian stores and spice shops. Mine are from Durban; I haven’t spotted them in Cape Town but if you have, do tell us where to find them.


250 ml moong dhal beans

1 litre cold water + extra for cooking

2 T oil

1 T ghee or butter

1 onion, sliced

1 t cumin seeds

1 t fresh ginger, grated finely

3 cloves garlic, smashed and chopped

1/2 t cayenne pepper (optional)

2 green chillis, slit

1/2 t turmeric powder

2 T chopped, peeled tomato

125 ml coriander, washed and chopped roughly

Salt, to taste


Clean (this means remove any grit or impurities) and soak the moong beans in cold water overnight and leave in a cool place or hot water for 1 hour prior to cooking.

In a pot on medium heat, add the rinsed beans as well as enough water to cover it by at least 5 centimeters. Once the pot comes to the boil, lower heat and cook on simmer until done, that is soft but not mushy – 25-30 minutes. Add more water as needed. Beans should have absorbed most of the water by the time they are cooked.

If you have a pressure cooker this process will be quicker, especially if you do not have time to soak the beans.

While the moong beans are cooking, heat a frying pan on medium. Add oil and ghee and fry onions till starting to turn translucent. Add cumin, ginger, garlic, chillis, turmeric, cayenne and stir well. Cook for a minute or two. Take off the heat.

When the moong dhal is ready, add the pan of spiced onions to the pot, as well as 1 cup water, salt, the coriander and tomato.

Cook on low heat until it thickens a little – 10 minutes. I like a dhal, like my mothers which is quite ‘saucy’, so you may need to add more water and adjust seasoning acoordingly.

Serve over basmati rice or scoop up with hot rotis. Pickles on the side are a must!

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