Dal Makhani / Ma ki Dal / Creamy Black Lentils

Black Lentils, Ma ki Dal, Dal Makhani, Kaali Dal or Urad Dal with skin – This Dal as you can tell has so many different names and that probably only indicates how widely loved and popular it is!

Growing up, this Dal did not hold an important place in my Mother’s pantry. I am not sure why. It isn’t a commonly made Dal in Eastern Indian homes for that matter. It’s associated with “restaurant” food in most Eastern Indian homes. For a long time, I had Ma ki Dal in dhabas and restaurants only.

No surprises here but like many of you, it’s one of my favorite lentils. I almost always never missed an opportunity to have this Dal during my years in Delhi and every possible trip back there. The creamy texture combined with the buttery flavor is enough to make anyone crave for Dal Makhani. It is very sinful and equally desirable due to the generous amount of cream and/or butter that goes in it. I am, not by any means, a health freak but over the years I started getting put off by the amount of butter that was used in it. A number of restaurants put so much butter and cream that you’ll have a tough time tasting any Dal in it. I craved for Dal Makhani without the indulgence.

And so… few years ago, I started my quest to make my own Dal Makhani.

I can completely understand if a lot of you will frown at the lack of lots of butter or cream, but my thought process behind this recipe was the following:

– Make it in a way that my family can have it on a regular day without feeling guilty.
– Make it quick without too much advanced preparation. (Unfortunately, I don’t plan my meals in advance most of the time)
– Keep as much of the creamy texture and taste without going overboard with the cream / butter.

Dal Makhani or Ma ki Dal is usually cooked with a small portion of Rajma (kidney beans). I make both versions of Dal Makhani (with only Black Lentils as well as a combination of Kidney Beans or Rajma & Black Lentils). If you are adding Rajma, replace ¼ cup of the Black Lentils with ¼ cup of Rajma. It tastes great in either combination! However, the use of Rajma requires advance planning and preparation.

Ensure your Rajma is soaked for about 8 hours. Alternatively, soak Rajma for 2-3 hours in hot water and then boil it separately until soft. I used Chitra Rajma (the smaller pale orange colored Rajmas) for cooking as they cook much faster. I soaked them for 8 hours in hot water, then pressure cooked them together with pre-soaked Black Dal for 20 mins. Black Dal was pre-soaked in hot water for 15 mins.

I skipped the Rajma this time as I hadn’t planned it ahead and it was a weekday dinner.

Dal Makhani / Ma ki Dal / Creamy Black Lentils Recipe

To print this recipe, click here.

Serves: 2-3

Ingredients:

Whole Black Lentils / Whole Urad Dal (with skin): ¾ cup [Can be replaced by: ¼ cup Kidney Beans (Rajma) + ½ cup Whole Black Lentils]
Cumin seeds: 1 tsp
Ginger finely chopped: 1 tbsp
Garlic finely chopped: 1 tbsp
Tomato puree: 1 cup (see step 2 below)
Chilli powder: ¼ tsp (or as per taste)
Cooking cream: 2 tbsp for cooking + 1-2 tsp for Garnishing
Kasoori Methi: 1 ½ tsp loosely packed
Garam Masala powder: ¼ tsp
Butter: about 1 tbsp
Salt: to taste

How I did it:

  • Clean and wash the Dal. Soak it covered in hot water for 30 mins.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the Tomato Puree: Put 2 medium sized tomatoes in a pot with sufficient water to almost cover the tomatoes. Bring the water to boil until the skin of the tomatoes starts to break. Remove from water, put in another pot with tap water and a couple of cubes of ice. When the tomatoes cool down, remove the skin. Blend it in a paste without adding any water.  This gave me roughly 1 cup of tomato puree which I needed for this recipe.

  • When the Dal is soaked (i.e. 30 mins later), throw away the water. In a pressure cooker, add the Dal with ¼ tsp of salt and 3 cups water. When the first whistle blows (or steam builds up), cook on low heat for 15 mins. If you are not using a pressure cooker, cover and boil in a pot until the dal becomes soft.
  • Meanwhile, wash the kasoori methi with a little water.  Soak it in ½ cup of hot water for about 10 mins.
  • When the Dal is cooked, let the steam from the pressure cooker come out on its own. If a lot of the liquid has evaporated, add more water. I didn’t have to add any. Now on medium heat and without the lid on, boil the Dal by stirring it continuously and mashing it gently against the pressure cooker wall using the back of your ladle (see pictures below). Keep doing this vigorously for about 8 mins or until the Dal starts to have a creamy texture. This step is important to get a creamy consistency.

  • Heat a heavy bottomed pot or non-stick kadhai. On low heat, add butter. When the butter melts, add the cumin seeds. As they begin to sputter, add the chopped garlic. When it starts to turn brown (Note: this happens very quickly), add the tomato puree, ¼ tsp of salt and the chopped ginger.
  • On medium heat, cook the masala for 6-7 mins. When the masala becomes like a lump, add the chilli powder. Keep stirring to ensure masala doesn’t get burnt. The masala should be done in another 2-3 mins. You will notice the color of the masala become darker and shiny due to the oil that surfaces on it. If the masala starts to stick, sprinkle a little water and scrape it off using the spatula.

  • On low heat, add the above prepared Dal to the pot with the masala. Stir the Dal and the masala well so that there are no lumps of masala and it’s evenly combined.
  • Now add the cooking cream. The color of the Dal will become slightly lighter. Cover and simmer for 10 mins, stirring every 1-2 minutes, gently mashing it with the back of the ladle to help achieve the creamy consistency.
  • Next add the kasoori methi along with the soaked water. Continue to cook for another 5 mins on low heat, stirring in between. By now, the Dal should have become darker in color than what it was when you added the cream.

  • Check for salt. Adjust if needed. Add garam masala powder and give it a good stir. Cook for a further 2-3 mins before turning the heat off. Let it sit for 5 mins to help combine all the flavors. It’s now ready to serve.
  • Garnish with some fresh cream and enjoy with hot Rotis / Parathas / Rice or any bread of your choice and some onions and green chillies on the side.

Notes:

  1. Dal has a tendency to become thick as it is left to cool. You may need to add some hot water (about ¼ cup) and make it warm before serving.
  2. Optional: Add a tbsp of butter just after turning the heat off. Tastes heavenly! I don’t do that usually unless I am feeling particularly ecstatic on a given day! 😉

[UPDATE 7th July, 2012] Sending this Dal Makhani recipe to My Legume Love Affair #49, the popular, legume-centered event that is conceptualized by Susan of The Well-Seasoned Cook. This month’s MLLA is hosted by Simona. Here’s the announcement for July’s MLLA. http://briciole.typepad.com/blog/2012/07/annuncio-legumi-che-passione-numero-49.html.

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