One of my favorite things about Indian Food is that the vegetarian fare is so scrumptious that you hardly miss meat. And there is so much variety in the veg food available throughout India that you would never get bored and still get all the necessary nutrients needed for a healthy body and mind. Seriously, it is so much easier to be a vegetarian in India!
Everyday vegetarian fare is usually quite easy to prepare, but when it comes to special occasions, there is a bit more time and work involved (as should be the case).
Take Dal, for instance. This humble lentil curry is one of the staples of Indian food and each Indian home has its own variation on this dish. It can be made with Toor Dal (Split Pigeon Peas), Masoor Dal (Red Lentils), Moong Dal (Split Mung Beans), Urad Dal (Black Gram Lentils) and other varieties of lentils and beans, depending on regional preferences.
But Dal Makhani is another story. ‘Makhan‘ is the Hindi word for butter. So, the name of the dish means Lentils with Butter. That should give you an idea of the richness of this Dal. It is made with a combination of various lentils, involves overnight prep and the end product is rich, creamy, luscious and anything but humble.
Dal Makhani originates from the north Indian state of Punjab. Traditionally, lentils and beans that go into it are soaked for hours (some up to overnight) and then slowly cooked over a charcoal fire with a blend of spices. The slow cooking lends the dish a creamy texture, which is further emphasized by the addition of butter and cream.
Urad Dal (black gram) is generally one of the main ingredients in Dal Makhani, but I generally use whatever lentils I have on hand. That way the dish tastes a little different every time, but hey, variety is the spice of life!
With its rich, creamy texture and warmth from the spices, Dal Makhani is the perfect winter warmer. It goes great with steamed rice, roti, naan or the way I like to have it: in a big bowl, by itself. Yum!
Prep time: 8 hours
Cooking time: 1 hour
1/4 cup Split Moong Beans
1/4 cup Rajma (Red Kidney Beans)
1/4 cup Yellow Moong Dal
1/4 cup Toor Dal (Split Pigeon Peas)
1/4 cup Chana Dal (Split Chick Peas)
2 Red Onions, chopped
2 inch piece Ginger, finely chopped
5 large cloves Garlic, finely chopped
2 Green Chillies, chopped (omit, if you would like to keep it mild)
1/2 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
1/2 teaspoon Cumin Powder
2 teaspoon Coriander Powder
1 teaspoon Garam Masala Powder
2 inch piece Cinnamon stick(s)
½ – 1 teaspoon Red Chilli Powder, as per level of heat preferred
1/4 teaspoon Turmeric powder
2 large Tomatoes, chopped
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons Butter
2 tablespoons Cooking Oil
2 tablespoon Heavy Cream
A small bunch of Cilantro, chopped
Soak the lentils and beans for about 8 hours in a lot of water.
Cook the lentils in a pressure cooker with 1 teaspoon salt, turmeric power and the cinnamon sticks, with enough water to cover them. Cook till done. You should be able to mash the lentils with a spoon if they are cooked. If they are not cooked thoroughly, then pressure cook further. Add water if needed.
If not using a pressure cooker, cook the lentils in a heavy bottomed pan, with the spices as mentioned above with plenty of water over medium flame and a lid on. It should take about 30-45 minutes for the lentils to cook.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil and add the Cumin seeds. When they are sizzling, add the chopped onions, ginger and garlic. Fry till the onions are translucent and then add the spice powders. Cook for about a minute on medium flame till the spices are cooked. Add the tomatoes and a bit of salt and cook till the tomatoes are mushy.
Add the cooked lentils and mix everything together. Lightly mash the lentils and add water to get the preferred consistency. Check seasoning and add more salt if needed. Simmer for about 5 minutes till everything comes together. Stir in the butter and the cream.
Garnish with the chopped Cilantro. Serve the Dal Makhani hot with Rice, Rotis, or Naan.