Dal Makhani
Dal Makhani

According to ancient belief a proper Indian meal is a perfect balance of all six flavors - sweet, salty, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy. Learning to cook Indian cuisine is learning to create equilibrium and overlapping these flavors to create a dish that would taste perfect to your own palate.

In Indian cuisine an important staple is the dal (lentil). History mentions dal recipes as old as pre-Harappan culture. There is also a belief that dal was served to guests taking part in the celebratory meal during Helen of Troy and Chandragupta Maurya’s wedding in 303 BC.

While the types of lentils used in India are numerous, with each being prepared in a variety of ways, Soulfood Palette shares with you one such recipe, an international favorite of Indian food lovers – Dal Makhani or Butter Lentil. This gorgeously creamy, earthy, hearty dal is full of protein. This dal is seen by many as very complex to make and time consuming as traditionally the preparation involved a series of procedures which took 24 hours to complete. Today modern equipment like the pressure cooker has revolutionized the way this dal is cooked.

There are many ways to cook this dal. Soulfood Palette will share a simple method by which you could make this in your own kitchen with easily available ingredients - without compromising on taste:

Dal Makhani

Ingredients- Serves 6 (ingredients are listed in the order you would be using them)
* Whole black gram (Sabut Urad dal) – 200gms
* Red Kidney Beans (Rajma)- 50gms
* Salt- 1tsp + as required
* Water – 1l( for pressure cooking )+as required
* Butter – 3 tbsp
* Cooking oil- 1tsp
* Cumin seeds (Sabut Jeera)- 1tbsp
* Finely chopped onion – 1 large(about 100gms)
* Grated ginger- 1 ½ inchs
* Grated garlic- 8 cloves
* Tomato puree-300gms
* Red chili powder(Lal Mirch Powder)-1tsp( I use Kashmiri Mirch as it adds a beautiful color to the dal yet it is only mildly pungent )
* Garam Masala- 1 ½ tsp
* Cream – 3-4 tbsps (seems a lot but like the name suggests it’s a creamy, buttery dal. This cream balances the spices used and adds texture to the dal).
* Dried Fenugreek leaves (Kasturi Methi) - 3 tbsp (dry roasted and crushed).
* Cilantro leaves- handful
* Sugar – a pinch

Method:
* Scrub, wash and soak the whole black gram and the Red Kidney beans, with ½ tsp of salt overnight in 1litre of water.
* Drain the water, rinse the lentils,and add them in a pressure cooker again with 1 liter of water and ½ tsp of salt. The water should cover the lentils by at least 2inches. Increase the amount of water if it doesn’t.
* Pressure cook for 10-12 whistles on high fame and then cook for 10 more minutes in low flame (you could cook the lentils in a pot but it may take 1hr). Take it off the flame.
* Once the pressure release naturally open the lid to check if the lentils are cooked thoroughly and fully softened. Theyshould mash up on touch with no resistance. . If it doesn’t add some more water and pressure cook it for 4-5 whistles more.
* In a pan heat the butter and oil (the reason to add the oil is so that the butter doesn’t get burnt very quickly), add the cumin seeds. When they begin to change color add the onion and sauté it for 2-3 minutes on low flame.
* As the onion turns light golden, add the ginger and garlic. Stir and sauté till the raw aroma of the ginger and garlic disappears.
* Now stir in the tomato puree andsauté it on medium flame, till you see the butter fat releasing from the sides. Add the red chili powder and the garam masala.
* Now put in the lentil mixture with its stock adding a cup of water if the consistency is too thick (it should be a medium thick soupconsistency).
* Stir it well and simmer this on low fame for 25 minutetill it’s well blended. Keep on stirring often, mashing it at times with the back of your spoon so that the lentils don’t get burnt yet get a creamy consistency... At any stage if you feel the “dal” looks too thick, add some water.
* Now stir in the cream and sugar, mix well, let it cook for 2 minutes and switch off the flame.
* Add the dry fenugreek leaves and stir. Garnish with cream and cilantro leaves. Serve hot accompanied with Indian breads or rice.

SOULFOOD PALETTE TWIST- You could replace the cream with milk though the real taste evolves with cream.This dal tastes scrumptious even when eaten the next day, especially cold straight out of the fridge spread on a hot toast!

Tishita Chopra is a home cook who runs Soulfood Palette-food with a twist. Simple wholesome food, that warms me up on a cold winter day and cools me down on a hot summer afternoon. It’s freshly made-to-order food, with varieties ranging from the steamed Christmas puddings to warm Burmese Khow Suey to Quiches to Creamy Bengali mustard fish.

You can reach out through Facebook and view the Soulfood Palette page or contact her on soulfood.palette@gmail.com or tishchopra@gmail.com

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INDI KALA