What pasta is to Italians is what dal is to Indians. It’s a staple across the country and when accompanied with rice it’s a dish considered to be the “bread and butter” of the cuisine.
My cousins in India find my love of lentils a little odd. They often roll their eyes when their respective mothers tell them that “dal is for dinner”. In fact if you asked my cousin Sahil what he thinks of lentils his response is a facial expression akin to that of the straight faced emoticon (yeah the one that has a horizontal line for it’s lips). He’d rather have a “McMaharaja” burger than masoor dal which is fair enough (Maccy D’s in India is pretty great) but I just don’t think he is giving it the chance it really deserves!
For me, dal is quintessentially Indian. One of my fondest memories when spending summer holidays in India, was the sound of pressure cooker whistles going off at lunchtime throughout the neighbourhood. The aroma of pulses cooking away would fill the streets and I would immediately feel hungry. From moong and masoor to toor and channa, each household has their favourite dal and unique way of preparing it. I love how the amazing variety of lentils can result in endless flavours and dishes!
Today’s recipe is one of my absolute favourites. Dal Makhani is silky, creamy and spicy all at the same time. Typically served with buttery chapatis or naans it’s utterly comforting and you are never judged for taking seconds (or thirds!). Enjoy…
- 1 cup black urad lentils
- 1/4 cup kidney beans or rose cocoa beans
- 1/4 cup channa lentils
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 medium onion
- 3 large garlic cloves
- 3 peppercorns
- 3 cloves
- 1 black cardamom
- 1 bay leaf
- 2" piece cinnamon stick
- 3 tbsp ghee or butter
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2" ginger, finely chopped
- 2 plum tomatoes & 2 tbsp tomato juice
- 2 birds eye green chillies
- 1 tsp coriander powder
- 1/4 tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/4 cup cream (optional)
- handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- Place the urad lentils, kidney beans and channa lentils together in a bowl and soak in water overnight. Rinse and keep aside.
- To a pressure cookery, add the soaked lentils, onions, garlic, peppercorns, cloves, black cardamom, bay leaf, cinnamon and salt along with 4 cups of water. Carefully place the lid on the cookery and place on high heat. When the first whistle goes off, reduce to low heat and cook for an additional 15 minutes. Allow the steam to escape naturally before opening the lid.
- Mash the lentils using a masher until they are blended together.
- If you do not have a pressure cooker, place above ingredients in a sauce pan along with 5 cups of water and cook until lentils are tender. (This will take approx 45 minutes). If the water reduces before they are cooked, add more throughout. Once cooked and mashed, keep aside.
- Heat ghee in a non-stick pan. Once hot, add the cumin. When the cumin begins to splatter, add the ginger and for 2 minutes until slightly brown.
- Now add the tomatoes along with the chillies. At this point, add the coriander powder, chilli powder, garam masala and fresh coriander.
- Cook for 2 minutes. When you see the oil separating, add the lentils and cook on low heat for 10 minutes, stirring regularly. Add cream and cook for another minute.
- Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Turn off heat.