You know I have made these lentils quite a few times in last months.We cooked and we ate, my instagram feed has showcased it a couple of times. But, somehow it is only now in the last week or so of winter that I am getting around to post it. Well, they say better late then never. Right? So while the weather is still cold and snowy make it.
Dal Makhani literally translates to "buttery lentils". It is a hugely popular dish in the punjabi cuisine.Cooked with whole black urad lentils, red kidney beans, spices and butter, it was not a everyday thing growing up. It was a dish reserved for special occasions. Mom would make it on only on birthdays, anniversary and days of family gatherings.
These creamy, melt in the mouth lentils, they need a bit of work. It's not your usual dump in the pressure cooker and walk away kind of lentils. For that smoky, creamy taste, a rich baghaar (tempering) needs to be prepared. The elements of the tempering are slow roasted on open fire for that superlative yet subtle aroma of spices, sweet - acidic hints of tomato, smoky notes of roasted onions and satiating comfort of butter & dairy. It needs planning and patience. You learn from experience when the lentils have cooked just about right. It took me some time to get a hang of it.
In our house and indian culture in general, when people host dinners, hospitality is showcased by serving something different from the usual home meals. It is one of mom's signature recipe.It's one of the recipes which she has cooked for dozens of guests in our family over the years and handed the recipe to many. When she visited me few months back here, I saw her making it, the eyeballing the ingredients came naturally to her, she didn't pick a single measuring spoon to tell you the truth.
Dal Makhani is definitely not your everyday food. It is calorie laden. But it so good. Oh boy! However, the way we prepare it in our homes is different from the restaurant versions, less use of dairy, less sweet, more spicy. Here, you taste the lentils, their creaminess and the warmth of ginger & kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) in each bite. Many people mash or churn the lentils to a finer consistency, you can do that if you want but I like to keep that extra bite.
A lot of steps in this recipe can be done a day ahead. You can cook the lentils, refrigerate them and temper then when ready to serve. You can fire roast the onions and tomatoes one day ahead too. If you plan slightly, it makes the entire process quick and easy. Serve the lentils with hot off the griddle rotis (flatbreads) or warm fluffy naan and a salad.
Dal Makhani Recipe
For Cooking the lentils
- ¾ cup whole black gram lentils sabot kali urad
- 3 tablespoon red kidney beans rajma
- 2 tablespoon ghee
- 1 tablespoon ginger finely chopped
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- ½ inch cinnamon stick
- 1 small black cardamom , can be skipped if you dont have
- ¼ teaspoon asafetida hing, skip if not available
- 3 cup water plus more if needed
- ½ teaspoon salt
For Tempering the lentils
- 1 medium onion ~yield ½ cup when blended
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 2 large tomatoes ~yield a little more than ½ cup when blended
- 3 tablespoon neutral oil
- 1 tablespoon garlic minced
- ½ teaspoon kashmiri chili powder or paprika
- ½ teaspoon red chili powder or cayenne adjust to tolerance
- 2 inch ginger julienne
- ½ teaspoon salt adjust to taste
- 1.5 teaspoon kasuri methi crushed, dry fenugreek leaves, available at indian grocery stores
- Pinch nutmeg powder freshly grated
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 3 tablespoon butter
- 3 tablespoon heavy cream more or less depending on how creamy you want, can be skipped)
Cooking The Lentils (This can be done a day ahead)
- Soak the lentils and kidney beans in enough water for atleast 8-10 hours. Drain the lentil and beans, add them along with lentils to a pressure cooker along with all the ingredients listed under 'cooking the lentils'. Pressure cook the lentils on medium heat for 2-3 whistles, then reduce to low and let cook for about 10-15 minutes. Switch off the stove and then let the pressure release.
- Open the pressure cooker lid and with the help of a spoon, pick and discard the bay leaf, cinnamon and cardamom. Mash the hot lentils and beans slightly. If you feel that the lentils are slightly tough to mash, pressure cook for another 1-2 whistles on medium. You should easily be able to mash the lentils with a spoon. If not, let cook a little more.
Tempering & Cooking The Lentils
- While the lentils are cooking, fire roast the onion and tomatoes. Roast them till the skins are charred. I use a small perforated pan which can be used on stove but you can roast them on the stove directly. Once roasted,let cool and peel off the skin of onion and using the food processor, make a onion paste. Try not to add water while making the paste. Separately, make a paste of tomatoes too. Set aside. (These pastes can be made a day ahead).
- In a dutch pot or kadhai(indian wok), heat up the oil on medium heat. Add the onion paste along with cumin seeds and let cook on medium heat till the paste is nicely golden brown. Next add the minced garlic. Saute for another 20 seconds or so. Then, add the tomato paste along with red chili powder and chopped ginger. Cook the tomatoes for about 8-10 minutes on low heat till you see the oil starting to separate on sides and the color darkening to deep red.
- Add the mashed lentils to the pot.Adjust the salt and also add some water if you feel that the lentils have thickened in due time. I add about ¾ cup water. Adjust depending on the desired consistency of the lentils.Reduce the heat to low and let simmer for about 30-35 minutes. The lentils will thicken up and the flavors will develop.
- Once the lentils have simmered, finish with kasuri methi, garam masala, nutmeg, butter and heavy cream (if using) gain and let simmer(not boil) for another 10 minutes.Done!Let sit for atleast 30 minutes before serving. They get better as they sit.
- Garnish with chopped cilantro, green chillies or ginger and serve warm with rotis (flatbreads)