“No one who cooks, cooks alone.Laurie Colwin
Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past.”
Starting this blog post with one of my favourite quotes. If you follow my work on Instagram, you would know that my work is heavily inspired by my grandmother’s and mother’s cooking. I grew up in a big fat Punjabi family where all the women pride themselves for making the best version of Dal Makhani. In my granny’s eyes you were not a true blue Punjabi if you couldn’t not cook a mean Dal Mahkani. She would mix Red Kidney Beans and Black Lentils and soak them overnight in water. Next morning they were boiled and then tempered and simmered with homemade White Butter, fresh Cream and various spices for hours on the Angeethi /clay oven. Once ready, the lentil dish was an enticing reddish-brick colour and we devoured it with hot Rotis (indian bread) straight out of the Tandoor (clay oven) which were smeared with freshly churned White Butter! Since my maternal grandmother lived only a stone’s throw away from our place, most happy memories of my childhood revolve around her food.
HISTORY OF DAL MAKHANI:
Literally translated Dal Makhani means lentils cooked in butter. If you are a Punjabi or have eaten at a Punjabi home, you would know of the more simple and homey “Ma Ki Dal“. To make “Ma Ki Dal” the black lentils are pressure cooked in homemade butter for various whistles until they fall apart and get a creamy consistency. We also call this lentil dish “Kali Dal” and it is the same dish that is cooked in the community kitchens of the Gurudwaras all over the world. The original recipe of “Ma ki dal” did not use tomatoes and used Yogurt as the souring agent. Legend has it that a gentleman named Mr Kundan Lal Gujral, who was the founder of Moti Mahal restaurants was the one who reinvented the home style black lentil recipe into the decadent and much popular Dal Makhani. It is said that Mr Lal created this dish for his vegetarian customers. He realised that there were ample decadent choices for his meat eating customers, however the choices for the vegetarians were few and simple. Mr Kundan Lal simply added the Makhani Gravy they made for Butter Chicken to the Black lentils/ Ma Ki Dal to make a rich and creamy recipe for his vegetarian customers to devour. It would be safe to say that Mr Lal actually revolutionized Indian restaurant food and put it on the world map. Two of his dishes, Butter Chicken and Dal Makhani have gained popularity all over the world and are loved and relished by one and all.
MY RECIPE FOR DAL MAKHANI:
While the infamous Moti Mahal version is extremely delicious and enticing. My grandmother’s version is what inspires me until today to continue to make this recipe. Her lentil was finger licking good. Simmered on the coals for hours, her Dal Makhani had a delicious smoky flavour. Additionally because she used pure ingredients like homemade Butter and Fresh Cream the flavour was unmatched. I do not have a large backyard or a clay oven like her, however the unforgettable taste of my Nani’s Dal Makhani left me with no choice but to create my own version. My recipe is much lighter however I do not skimp on spices and cook the lentils in Whole Milk for hours to get the delicious creamy consistency. I do not use Butter however a few dollops of Bilona Ghee does the trick. I also make a small batch of fresh spice mix every time I make the Dal Makhani. I find that using good quality dairy and freshly pounded spices gives my Dal Makhani a delicious unique flavour. It gives me immense joy to share my prized recipe with you today.
INGREDIENTS FOR DAL MAKHANI:
Good quality ingredients are non negotiable while making Dal Makhani. I use Organic Black Lentils and Red Kidney Beans. Although you could use any good quality Ghee, in this recipe I use Bilona Ghee. Bilona is an age old method of making Ghee in which the cream from Yogurt and not from Milk is used to make Ghee. In Ayurveda, only Bilona Ghee is considered to be beneficial for our body. Since I do not use cream to make Dal Makhani, I use full fat Milk. This milk when simmered with the lentils is what gives them their irresistible creaminess. I also use various spices like Cinnamon, Cardamom, Black Cardamom, Asafotida, Kashmiri Mirch, Coriander powder, Cloves, Nutmeg etc. I also use Red Onions, Tomatoes, Garlic and lots of Ginger in my recipe. I would like to emphasize here that finely chopped or grated Ginger fried in Ghee is the most magical ingredient and imparts an absolutely delicious flavour to my Dal Makhani. I therefore use more Ginger than Garlic in my recipe.
THE SPICE MIX FOR DAL MAKHANI:
Everytime I make Dal Makhani, I make a small batch of fresh spice mix. To be honest, you could easily use Garam Masala too, however this spice mix elevates my Dal Makhani to the another level. Therefore if you have the time, I strongly urge you to make this freshly pounded Masala. To make the spice mix, to a cast iron or heavy bottom skillet add 1/2 tsp Cumin, 1 tsp Coriander seeds, 1 small Cinnamon Stick, 2 green Cardamom, 1 Black Cardamom, 2 Cloves, 4-5 Black Pepper, 1 tsp Kasturi Methi, 1 small piece of Nutmeg and 1 Bay Leaf. Dry roast these spices on a very low flame for 5-6 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let them cool. Add to a spice blender or a mortar and pestle and make a fine powder.
HOW TO MAKE DAL MAKHANI:
To make Dal Makhani soak Beans and Lentil in water overnight. Next morning wash the Lentils and pressure cook with some Salt, Turmeric and Water for 6-7 whistles.To a hot pan, add Ghee, Asafotida and Cumin. Once the Cumin crackles, add Onions and cook until light brown. Add Ginger and Garlic and cook until brown. Add Chilli Powder, Coriander Powder and sautee for a few seconds. Add the Tomatoes and the Tomato Paste and cover and cook on a low flame until the Ghee separates. With the help of a ladle or a masher, lightly mash the Dal Makhani in the pressure cooker. Add the freshly pounded Masala/ Spice Mix (recipe in notes), along with Milk to the Dal Makhani and cover and cook on a low flame for half hour . Keep stirring. Now add the remaining Ghee and mix well. Put the pressure cooker on top of a cast iron tawa/ skillet and let the lentils simmer for atleast an hour on a very low flame (the longer you cook the lentils, the better they taste). Keep stirring after every 10-12 minutes. Once ready, you can add a little more Ghee if you’d like or consume the dal just like this.
HOW TO SERVE DAL MAKHANI:
You can serve Dal Makhani with just some good old Steamed Rice, or Cumin Rice. Dal Makhani also pairs very well with Laccha Parantha, Naan or Tandoori Roti.
If you make my version of Dal Makhani do tag me in your pictures on Instagram @supaintsonplates #supaintsonplates. I would love to hear from you.
- 1 Cup Black Lentil/ Urad Dal
- 2 tbsp Red Kidney Beans
- 6-7 Cups Water
- 1 Onion chopped
- 1 Tomato chopped
- 2 tbsp Tomato paste
- 6 Cloves Garlic finely chopped
- 2 tbsp Ginger finely chopped
- Kashmiri Mirch Powder to taste
- 1/4 tsp Cumin
- 1 tsp Coriander Powder
- 1/4 tsp Asafotida
- 1 tsp Turmeric
- 2 tbsp Ghee
- 2 Cups Whole Milk
- 1 tsp Lentil Spice Mix (recipe in notes)
- Soak Beans and Lentil in water overnight
- Next morning wash the Lentils and pressure cook with some Salt, Turmeric and Water for 6-7 whistles.
- To a hot pan, add Ghee, Asafotida and Cumin. Once the Cumin crackles, add Onions and cook until light brown.
- Add Ginger and Garlic and cook until brown.
- Add Chilli powder, Coriander powder and sautee for a few seconds
- Add the Tomatoes and the Tomato paste and cover and cook on a low flame until the Ghee separates
- With the help of a ladle or a masher, lightly mash the Dal Makhani in the pressure cooker
- Add the masala you just made, along with Milk to the Dal and cover and cook on a low flame for half hour . Keep stirring
- Now add the remaining Ghee and mix well
- Put the pressure cooker on top of a cast iron tawa/ skillet and let the lentils simmer for an hour atleast. Keep stirring after every 10-12 minutes
- Once ready, you can add a little more Ghee if you'd like or consume the Dal just like this
Wow!!! You just took me on a lovely rustic journey to your nani’s kitchen!!! Thanks for adding that history – it’s something I wasn’t aware of!
This is a dish I love a lot but don’t indulge in often as it leaves me feeling like a lorry unable to move! I am more used to the South Indian cuisine that uses no ghee and butter in its preparation and hence, leaves a lighter impact on the body!
Considering your recipe is a lighter version of the buttery dish, I will surely try it and tell you how it came out!
Do keep the stories coming!!
Thank you so much Sridevi for taking the time to read my blog and for your kind words. Although I’m North Indian, I myself eat South Indian breakfast on most days. I hope you will cook my version of Dal Makhani and find it easier to digest and enjoy.
Hi ,you wont believe I am making one right now. I opened my IG and here I see your post on dal makhni. Lovely story and following this one now…much love
This is such a lovely coincidence Ketaki. Hope you enjoy the recipe. Do keep me posted. Lots of love, Su
Hi Surbhi, the recipe is so tempting. I’m intrigued about cooking the Dal in milk. I’m can only imagine the creamy texture. The spice mix is also very helpful.
Could you please clarify when do you add the sautéed onion tomato masala to the Dal? And also when do you add the freshly made dry masala powder to the Dal?
Thank you for your kind words.
Please read the recipe. Every step is described in detail. Enjoy cooking.
Kind regards, Su
Great recipe. I tried it with slight modification in spices and it came out fabulous.
Thank you so much. I’m delighted to hear that.
Thank you for this recipe! Really excited to try it, it looks so simple.
Thank you so much. I’m excited for you to try it too Paril 🙂. Do keep me posted.
Such a beautiful recipe and so well explained Surabhi. I could almost smell the aroma of that Dal simmering away while reading. Also that tip of placing the pressure cooker on the Tawa for slow cooking is so awesome and helpful 👌
Thank you Kamakshi for taking the time to read the blog. Im delighted to hear your feedback. I hope you cook the recipe and love it as much as I do.
Loved the write up giving an insight into the making of Dal Makhani. Thank you for this and the recipe. Would surely try it 😊
Thank you Hina for taking the time to read. I hope you enjoy cooking this simple recipe.
Right from the way you make a dish to the way you present it and finally the way they taste, it goes to show how passionate and emotional you are about what you do. You are not just a star but the whole sky full of stars. Love your work and I wish you all the luck and prosperity in life. Love,
Omg, this made me cry. Thank you brother.
Beautiful write up, loved all the history behind how dal makhani came into existence. Will surely gonna try this recipe Surabhi !!
Thank you so much Kamya for taking the time to read. I enjoyed writing this blog immensely and am so happy to have shared it with you all. Can’t wait for you to try the recipe!!
Lovely read, Surabhi ! I love the sound of that sound mix..
Thank you so much Neha ♥️♥️
Such a beautiful article Su, absolutely love how passionate you are about cooking. Will try the recipe soon and share pictures with you ❤️
Thank you so much Jas. I’m so touched you took the time to read this. I am excited to see your pictures whenever you get a chance to make the dal.
Much love, Su
Can’t wait to make this!
Thank you so much my sweet friend for popping by. Means the world to me. Love 😘