In India, lentils are a big and regular part of the diet. For a traditionally (and still) vegeterian nation, they not only provide a rich source of protien but also bring a variety to the cuisine beyond the vegetables. There are any number of lentils that you can find in India and an equal variety of lentil (or lentil based) dishes, be it appetizers, main course, side dishes or dessert you are looking for. Of all these some of the more popular ones include Chhole (curried chick peas), rajma (curried kidney beans), Dal Tadka (Tempered lentils) and Dal Makhni (Butter cooked lentils).
Dal Makhni is one of those comfort foods that remind you of home and of mom’s cooking. Every mother has a special recipe and a way of cooking, little variations but giving that special uniqueness called the mother’s touch. Not surprisingly it is one of those dishes which I am always skeptical proclaiming about. It falls in the classics categories of kheer and apple pie and curried chick peas and chocolate cake and chocolate chip cookies and chili and murg makhni and what not.. With that said, this is the recipe I use and have always received compliments about. If you don’t have a special handed-down-from-mom recipe, try this one. you might just end up making this one your special recipe too 🙂
Ingredients: Enough for 4-6 people
1 cup urad dal
1/3 cup rajma (kidney beans)
1/3 cup chana dal (split black chick peas)
2 large cloves garlic
1″ cube of ginger
2 green chillies (use your choice of peppers to suit your tolerance level)
salt to taste
1tbsp ghee/clarified butter (can be substituted with regular butter if you have to)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1.5 tsp garlic paste (or 2-3 cloves garlic very finely chopped)
1/4 tsp Asafoetida (chances are you might not have this ingredient which is more about flavor than taste. Don’t fret a lot if you have to miss out on this one)
2 tbsp tomato paste (or puree 2 medium tomatoes with 1 tbsp ketchup)
3 tbsp butter (no, this is not a mistaken repetition but just a (repeat) use of an ingredient)
2 tbsp regular cream (or 3-4 tbsp whole milk/half-n-half)
2 tsp chilli powder
1.5 tsp garam masala (you will miss out on the flavor if you don’t have this ingredient but still end up with a great product. Garam masala can be found in Indian stores, specialty food stores and sometimes even in a large grocery store)
coriander leaves to garnish
1. Soak the urad, rajma and chana dal overnight (or for 6-8 hrs)
2. The next day, cook the soaked dal along with the garlic, ginger, chillies and salt either in a pressure cooker or a slow cooker till the lentils are cooked but not mushy. If you are using a pressure cooker, turn heat off and check the lentil texture after the 2nd whistle (allow the steam to escape for 10 odd minutes and then manually take the rest of the steam out before checking)
3. Heat a heavy bottomed pan and add ghee. When ghee starts to smoke, add the cumin and fenugreek seeds. Stir for 20 secs and then add garlic paste and asafoetida. Cook for another 5-7 mins (till the garlic starts to turn dark brown and starts to leave oil).
4. Now add the tomato paste and cook for another 4-6 mins.
6. Add the cooked lentils and bring it to a boil.
7. Once it starts to boil, add butter and chilli powder along with the cream and simmer on low heat for 20 odd mins.
8. Once done, switch off the heat, add the garam masala powder and stir to mix well.
9. To serve, garnish with coriander leaves and a swirl of cream. The dish goes very well with plain rice and/or tandoori roti with a few slices of onion and lemon on the side.
10. Serve with naan/tandoori roti/rice with a side of chopped red onions and a wedge of lemon.