Dal (lentils) is one of my top comfort foods. Cooking lentils is pretty much an everyday deal for me, and typically I don’t consider it a special occasion food, or something I would like to cook for guests. But the game changes when it is Dal Makhani, which literally means buttery lentils. By no means it is an ordinary fare, but it is extraordinarily simple to cook. Of course it is not just lentils and butter, but has a host of other spices you would expect in Indian cuisine, making it a delightful accompaniment to Naan or lightly spiced Basmati Rice. Taking a tip from my sister, I pressure cooked the lentils. While pressure cooker is not essential for this, if you have it–use it, as it makes the lentils well cooked and creamy. To get the same ‘creaminess’ without a pressure cooker, you can blend 2-3 tbsps of cooked lentils and add that to the gravy. Another trick I learned from my sister is to use Red Kidney beans to lend extra creaminess. If you choose not to, just use all Urad Dal instead.
And, I confess, I used only half the amount of butter usually called for in this recipe….after all this is Dal (lentils) Makhani (butter)!
What you need (serves 2-3):
3/4 cup Whole Urad Dal (Black gram–found in Indian grocery stores) soaked over night
1/4 cup Red Kidney beans, soaked over night (optional, see note above)
4 tbsp Tomato paste
1 tbsp Ginger paste
1 tbsp Garlic paste
1 tsp Garam masala
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 tsp Chilli powder
4 tbsp Butter
1 tbsp Oil
1/4 tsp Cumin seeds
1/4 tsp Cumin powder
1/4 tsp Corriander powder
1/4 tsp Turmeric powder
1 tsp Kasoori Methi (found in Indian grocery stores)
1/4 cup Cream or low fat Half & Half (optional)
How to make it:
- Cook the lentils in good amount of water with 1 tsp of salt, until tender. They should be tender enough to be mashed easily between your fingers when pressed. Save about 1 cup of this water and drain the rest.
- For added creaminess (as noted above) blend 2-3 tbsp of lentils, adding a few tablespoons of water.
- In a wide pan on medium low, add 1 tbsp of butter and 1 tbsp of oil. Once hot add Cumin seeds and let them splutter.
- Add ginger and garlic paste and turmeric and saute for a couple of minutes.
- Add the tomato paste, salt and chilli powder and cook on low for 8-10 minutes, until cooked thoroughly.
- Add corriander powder and cook for another minute.
- Add the remaining butter and when melted add about 1/2 cup water from the lentils and cook for 5 minutes.
- Now add the cooked lentilsl and lentils puree, if using.
- Add tsp crushed Kasoori Methi and Garam Masala powder.
- Cook on low for 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add cream, if using and turn the heat off.
- Serve hot with naans or cooked Basmati rice.