Friday, March 21, 2008

For Beth: Dal Makhani

When you travel in Northern India, particularly in Punjab and Himachal Pradesh, one sure bet in terms of road side food options is Dal Makhani. It is a prime example of slow cooking, and is relatively easy to do- the waiting is the hardest part. Literally meaning Butter Lentils, this is a mix of a number of dark lentils, which should normally include kidney beans as well, the whole garnished with oh maybe 2 sticks of butter (yes, really!).

That said, here is a relatively lighter version, which you can amp up to your taste. Where as I have used a specific kind and number of lentils, you will find equal success with other dark lentils, or even yellow/red ones- the recipe is pretty much fool proof, and easily translates to all lentils/beans alike. The recipe LOOKS long, but I've tried to break down every step so it is easy to follow.


Dry lentils:
1/2 cup black masoor lentils (any Indian grocery)
1/2 cup brown Spanish lentils (not per tradition, but it works)

1 small can of kidney beans
1/2 can of black beans (not per tradition, but they work!)
1 small can of tomatoes, or 3 whole crushed tomatoes

3 heaping tablespoons of ginger-garlic paste (or simply pound 1 small head of garlic and 2 inches of ginger together)

2 medium onions, or 1 largish oninions

1 jalapeno, minced

1/4 cup heavy cream, or 1/2 cup regular

1/2 stick butter

You can either go w/ 3 heaping tbs of Garam Masala,

or choose my way, visit the Indian grocery store, and get all these:
  • 1 longish cinnamon stick
  • 3 large black cardamoms
  • 5 green cardamoms
  • 6 cloves
  • 3-4 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp Cumin powder
  • 1 tbsp Coriander powder
  • 1 tbsp whole black peppers
salt to taste
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, minced

  • Soak the dry lentils in water- leave on the kitchen counter overnight.
  • Dice all the onion (about 1/2")- this too can be done the day before, and stored in the fridge.
Next day:
  • Add all the dry spices to a large pan, and dry roast for about 1/2 a minute, until the smell hits you- that means they are roasted. If you are using Garam masala instead, just skip to the next step.
  • Throw in 1/4 of the diced onions, spray in some olive oil, and fry.
  • When the onions begin to brown, add the ginger-garlic paste and all the tomato, and fry away (you don't need to add any more oil), until the mixture becomes a brown-red, and thickens somewhat- about 5 minutes. Don't let this stick to the pan.
  • Now add in the soaked lentils (discard the water), and dry roast some more for about a minute. Add salt to taste (you NEED to add some salt at this point- just do it- seriously). Add in 3 cups of water, and bring the whole to a boil. Now reduce to a bare simmer, cover and walk away for about an hour. I did my laundry :)
1 hr later:

Drop in the jalapeno, cream, rinsed black beans and black beans, adjust for salt, and dump in another 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Then reduce to a simmer, cover and walk away for 45 minutes. I folded my laundry :)

45 minutes later:
  • Add the garam masala powder to your lentils, and mix- taste. adjust for salt and pepper, more garam masala if needed. If the lentils are too thick, add more water. If too thin, just boil away.
  • In another, smaller pan, spray some olive oil, and fry all remaining diced onion, until it turns a darkish brown. This should take 15 minutes, by which times your lentils should be done.
  • Check your lentils, which should be soft by now. If they aren't, no sweat- add more water, boil, cover and simmer until they are soft enough. Yes this sound like a long process, but if you barbecue, it isn't.
  • Once you are comfy with the done-ness of your lentils, check the viscosity- Dal Makhani is normally really thick, with the spatula barely able to stir things around- but you its your choice really. If you like it thinner, add water, and boil to desired viscosity as well.
  • Once you are all done, add in the fried onions, and as much butter as you like. I put in 1/2 a stick, since this IS Dal Makhani, but purists would add in 2. Keep in mind, by this time, you probably have enough Dal to feed 4 very hungry people.
  • Garnish with 1/2 cup of minced cilantro stirred in, and serve hot with steamed white rice or garlic naan, as I did.


Beth said...

YOU'RE THE BEST!!! Can't wait to try - after doing the proper shopping, of course. I love the Indian grocery store, and the nice man who runs it will no doubt be amused to see me come in for something other than movies.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Aw gosh- thanks! It is dedicated to you forever now :D

And dont worry about having to use whole spices- good ol garam masala is just fine- I just like added texture in a Dal; I find it too soupy otherwise.

Beth said...

On closer inspection of my cupboards, I actually have all of those spices except coriander, which I hate with a fiery passion.

I have already told some friends about the recipe and they are all demanding I try it right away!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Now I am full of anxiety!!! I wish I was there to help out!

You an totally do without the coriander- and of course, butter and cream make everything taste dandy :D