“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