Some recipes quintessentially define Indian cuisine. We are known for our vegetarian food varieties all over the world and our reliance on lentils, fruits, and veggies to make that happen. And, some of these dishes have made Indian cuisine a favorite worldwide. One such recipe is our own Dal Makhani, which literally translates to a Lentil cooked in butter.
If you visit any major city in Punjab, Haryana or Delhi, you will see traditional restaurants serving this creamy dreamy Dal Makhani along with Lacha Parathas or Butter Naans. I have had the best Dal Makhani in the dhabbas of Amritsar in Punjab and near Jammu in J&K on my way to Mata Vaishno Devi.
The Dal gets its unique and distinct flavor from it’s mildly spiced tadka, whole spices, slow cooking of the dal/lentils, cream, butter, and the smokiness from the charred coals. Here are some of my notes to adding some variations to the dal based on your preferences.
This is my version of the Dal Makhani to make an ultimate dish. However, due to time or healthy constraints, you can easily make some of these variations to it.
- I slow cook the lentils after adding them to the tadka for 1 hour. If you are pressed for time, you can reduce the time slightly but I would still recommend cooking the lentils for about 30 minutes.
- Dal Makhani gets its flavor from oodles of butter and cream. You can add less quantity to make a healthier version but trust me it will not taste the same. A better idea is to cook the lentils in milk instead of adding water when you are slow-cooking them. This will ensure that the dal gets creamier with milk.
- You can totally avoid adding Coal fumes/Dhugar into the dal but it makes a lot of difference and elevates the flavor to another level.
So try this recipe but on a weekend when you have some time at your hands. J
PREPARATION TIME: 15 minutes
COOKING TIME: 1.5 hours
SERVINGS: 6 bowls
DIFFICULTY SCALE: Medium
For the Dal –
- Sabut Urad/Black Lentil – ¾ cup
- Rajma/Red Kidney Beans – ¼ cup
- Water – 4 cups
- Vegetable oil – 1 tablespoon
- Salt – 1 tablespoon
For the Tadka –
- Butter – 3 tablespoons
- Tej Patta/Bay Leaf – 1
- Dal Chini/Cinnamon Stick – 1
- Badi Elaichi/Black Cardamom – 1
- Choti Elaichi/Green Cardamom – 1
- Laung/Cloves – 3
- Zeera/Cumin seeds – ½ tablespoon
- Onion – 1 large, finely diced
- Tomatoes – 4, medium
- Ginger – 1 small stick
- Garlic – 4-5 pods
- Green Chillies – 2
- Kashmiri Chilli Powder – 1 teaspoon
- Coriander Powder – 1 tablespoon
- Sugar – ½ teaspoon
- Fresh cream – ½ cup
- Kasuri Methi/Fried Fenugreek leaves – ½ teaspoon
- Dhaniya/Coriander Leaves – for garnish
For the Coal Tempering –
24. Coal piece – 1
25. Oil – 1 teaspoon
For boiling the Lentil –
- Thoroughly wash the lentils – sabut urad dal and rajma.
- Soak them overnight.
3. Add them to a pressure cooker along with 4 cups of water, salt, and a little oil.
4. Place on high heat until you hear a whistle and then on low heat for another 25 minutes.
5. Take it off the heat and let the steam release.
6. Once you open the pressure cooker, take a potato masher and mash the boiled lentils with light hands to break their outer covering. Remember to do this lightly and not turn the lentils into a paste.
For the Tempering/tadka –
- Finely chop the onion. Puree the tomatoes to make a smooth paste.
- Crush 2 green chillies, a small piece of ginger, and 4-5 cloves of garlic into a paste.
- Now, take a heavy bottom kadhai/wok and add 2 tablespoons of butter to it.
- Let it melt. Then add all the whole spices to it – bay leaf, cardamoms, cinnamon stick, cloves, and the cumin seeds.
11. Once they turn aromatic in about half a minute, add the chopped onions.
12. Sweat the onions on medium heat for 4-5 minutes until they caramelize and turn light brown.
13. Now add in the ginger-garlic-chilli paste and cook until the raw smell goes away.
14. Keep mixing continuously so that the masala doesn’t burn.
15. Now add in the tomato puree and mix. Let the tomatoes cook well for about 5-7 minutes.
16. Once the masala starts leaving the sides and emits oil, you will know that it’s done properly.
Simmering the Lentils –
- Add the slightly mashed lentils to the kadhai with the cooked masala.
- If there is enough water from the boiled dal, then it is fine. Otherwise, add half a cup or more of water.
- Cover this dal and place on low heat and let it cook for about an hour (or 30 minutes at least).
- Keep stirring it every 12-15 minutes so that it does not stick to the bottom and burn.
- After an hour, add a little sugar and fresh cream to the dal and mix well.
- Sprinkle some fenugreek leaves and add some butter and mix.
Adding Smoky flavor –
- Heat a small piece of coal until it’s very hot and turns red.
- Keep turning them with a pair of tongs so that they get uniformly lit.
- Take a small steel bowl/katori and add the burnt coal in it and place it in between the cooked dal.
- Drizzle a little oil to it and cover the kadhai with a lid.
- Keep covered for about 1-2 minutes, that will infuse enough smokiness in the Dal Makhni.
Sprinkle some chopped coriander leaves and serve hot with naans or Laccha Parathas or Zeera rice.