Maasi’s lentil kichori

Maasi’s lentil kichori

I Love India
Martin Poole

My mother was one of six sisters… and one brother. “Maasi” is the Hindi word for mum’s sister. I have always loved my mother’s extended family in Delhi: they are a group of resilient and independent women and most of my cousins from that side of the family are also women, all strong and lovely. My mother was the youngest sister. She grew up eating vegetarian meals often made without onions or garlic, yet the food was still so delicious and I always loved eating at my cousin’s homes. One of my mother’s sisters lived in the heart of Delhi; she was an amazing cook and would often cook for me and send food in a tiffin to the hotel when I was in the city. When I got interested in cooking Indian food, this maasi was the first person I turned to. This is one of the recipes I learned from her and I love it. I make big batches, half-fry them and freeze them for when friends come over.


Quantity Ingredient
100g yellow lentils, (mung dal)
175g plain flour
vegetable oil, as needed
1 tablespoon chickpea flour
very small pinch asafoetida
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
11/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/2-3/4 teaspoon see method for ingredients, (fresh if possible)
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/8 teaspoon chilli powder, or to taste
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried mango powder
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
2 tablespoons thinly sliced spring onions, (optional, but I like it)


  1. Wash the lentils and set them to soak for 30 minutes.
  2. Put the plain flour in a bowl with a good pinch of salt. Mix in 2 tbsp oil with your fingers so the flour looks like sand. Knead in enough water to make a medium-firm dough, 80–90ml. Cover with a wet dish towel.
  3. Dry-roast the chickpea flour in a non-stick saucepan over a low-ish heat, stirring almost constantly, until it darkens to a sandy colour and releases a distinctive aroma, 1–2 minutes. Set aside.
  4. Clean the pan and heat 2 tbsp of the oil. Add the asafoetida and fry for 5–10 seconds or until it just colours. Add the cumin seeds and cook until sizzling and coloured. Add some salt, the ground coriander, garam masala, turmeric and chilli powder, stir for another 20 seconds or so, then tip in the drained lentils and season well. Stir well to mix and sauté for a few minutes or until all the liquid has dried up and the lentils have had a chance to cook in the spiced oil. Add a good splash of water, bring to a simmer, cover and cook until just tender, 8–10 minutes, or less if you soaked the lentils for a longer time. Dry off any excess water over a high heat; you want the mixture to be a bit moist and the lentils to have a little bite. Add the remaining ingredients, taste and adjust the seasoning. Set aside to cool. Divide into 10 portions.
  5. Heat up 7.5–10cm of oil in a karahi, wok or saucepan until medium hot. Taking 1 ball of dough at a time, roll it out into a thin circle about 10cm wide. Fill with 1 rounded tbsp of the filling and enclose by pulling up the sides and making a pouch. As you pinch them to close the top, twist off the excess dough and set aside. Pat into a 1cm thick patty, making sure there are no holes on the top. Repeat to form another 4 and add all 5 to the oil. Immediately reduce the heat to low and fry really gently until golden brown and crispy on both sides, around 10 minutes. Repeat to form and cook the remaining balls, using the dough set aside from each to create any extras.
  6. Serve hot with Tangy Herb Chutney, or Proper Date and Tamarind Chutney.
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