Dal Makhani

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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!

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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…

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Dal Makhni
Serves 4
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Ingredients
  1. 1 cup black urad lentils
  2. 1/4 cup kidney beans or rose cocoa beans
  3. 1/4 cup channa lentils
  4. 1 1/2 tsp salt
  5. 1 medium onion
  6. 3 large garlic cloves
  7. 3 peppercorns
  8. 3 cloves
  9. 1 black cardamom
  10. 1 bay leaf
  11. 2" piece cinnamon stick
  12. water
  13. 3 tbsp ghee or butter
  14. 1 tsp cumin
  15. 2" ginger, finely chopped
  16. 2 plum tomatoes & 2 tbsp tomato juice
  17. 2 birds eye green chillies
  18. 1 tsp coriander powder
  19. 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  20. 1 tsp garam masala
  21. 1/4 cup cream (optional)
  22. handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Instructions
  1. Place the urad lentils, kidney beans and channa lentils together in a bowl and soak in water overnight. Rinse and keep aside.
  2. 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.
  3. Mash the lentils using a masher until they are blended together.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Now add the tomatoes along with the chillies. At this point, add the coriander powder, chilli powder, garam masala and fresh coriander.
  7. 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.
  8. Check for salt and adjust accordingly. Turn off heat.
Monica's Spice Diary - Indian Food Blog http://spicediary.com/

Kheer-Indian Rice Pudding

Kheer, also known as Indian rice pudding is probably one of the more simpler Indian desserts to make. Creamy and velvety in texture this milky delicacy always goes down well with children and adults alike. It’s traditionally made at festivals and weddings and every region of India has their own way of preparing kheer. The fundamental ingredients are milk and sugar. This recipe, courtesy of Mama Sawhney, originates from Northern India where rice is used to make kheer but vermicelli can also be used. Best served chilled!

Serves 8

What we need:
3/4 cup rice (basmati rice tastes the best)
4 pints milk
3/4 cup caster sugar
Pinch of saffron
1/2 tsp cardamom powder
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
For garnishing: chopped pistachios and almonds (optional)

How we do:

  • In a pan, add the milk and cardamom powder and bring to boil. Now add the rice and saffron and reduce the heat.
  • Continue to simmer on low heat, stirring from time to time to prevent the rice from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
  • Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the milk is reduced by about half (this can take up to 1¼ hours).
  • Add the sugar and raisins and stir well. Continue to simmer for a further 15 minutes, stirring continuously. Turn off the heat.
  • Wait till it cools down and place in fridge. I always chill it overnight before I serve.
  • If the kheer becomes thick, you can add some cold milk before serving and stir well.
  • Garnish with chopped pistachios and almonds.

Roasted Lamb & Spinach Curry

Lamb and Spinach Curry is the ultimate dinner party dish and is perfect for special occasions. In this recipe, the lamb is slow roasted in order to ensure that the sauce thickens nicely and that the lamb tenderises perfectly so that it melts in your mouth. I also pre-marinaded the lamb in an aromatic yoghurt sauce so that each individual piece of lamb has it own flavour. I made this dish at a recent Spice Club dinner and it went down really well!  I think the key to this dish is cooking it slowly, yes it does take a little longer but it’s well worth the wait-believe! Best served with basmati rice or freshly made hot chappatis nom nom nom nom…
Recipe shown below serves 12. You can either divide by how many servings you want it to yield or use http://www.easysurf.cc/recipe.htm.

Serves 12

What we need:
For the marinade:-
1000g lamb, boneless leg cut into 2.5cm cubes
4 garlic cloves, grated
2″ ginger, grated
4 tbsp cream
6 tbsp yoghurt
4 tsp salt
2 tsp kasturi methi (fenugreek leaves)
2 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric powder
2 tsp coriander powder
2 tsp meat tenderiser powder
For Masala:-
3 tbsp olive oil
6 onions, roughly chopped
3 tbsp olive oil
5 bay leaves
5 black cardomoms
1 stick cinnamon
2 tsp cumin seeds
3 cloves
3 cloves garlic
2″ ginger
2 tsp salt (or according to taste)
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp chilli powder
2 tsp garam masala
pinch of pepper
2 green birdseye chillis, chopped
3/4 tin plum tomatos
2 handfuls of fresh coriander
300g pureed spinach

How we do:

  • In a bowl: Mix together the lamb and all of the ingredients listed above under the ‘marinade’ title. Refridgerate overnight.
  • Preheat the oven to 170 C.
  • In a large open pan, heat the olive oil. Fry off the onions until golden and tender. Remove and grind in a food processor.
  • Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in an oven proof pan. Add the whole spices listed above. when they begin to sizzle, add the ginger and garlic. Mix well and add the remaining ground spices and salt.
  • Cook for a couple of minutes whilst stirring. Now add the ground onion paste to the pan as well as the green chillies.
  • Mix well and cook on medium heat for 3-5 minutes , stirring every couple of minutes. Now add the tomatos and fresh corriander. Cook the masala for a few minutes until the oil begins to separate.
  • Now add the marinated lamb and mix well.
  • Add 2 glasses of water to the lamb masala and place in the oven.
  • Check the lamb and stir it every 10 minutes. When you do this,if you think the gravy (masala) has thickened, you add some more water.
  • Keep an eye on the lamb curry and cook until the lamb is tender (I cooked it for about 3 hours). Once tender (you can tell if the lamb is fully cooked if it breaks apart easily) add the spinach and mix well until it blends with the masala.
  • Remove from oven. (NB. You can remove the whole spices from the lamb curry if you want).
  • Garnish with cream and fresh coriander.