Dal Makhani - Black Dal

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Aah ... to have a warm and comforting bowl of black dal on a cool night. So much more than a soup ... it's an appetizer and main course in one. Now there is a wide variety of pulses out there ... but this is my all time favourite. There is no other dal so rich and luscious than Dal Makhani, where black grams combine with 'fleshy' red kidney beans to produce a thick and chunky, and hearty bowl of contentment. And with bhuga chawal, you've got an amazing meal going on.

Now is it dal? dhal? daal? Same fabulous dish. It gets more complicated when referring to this particular dish ... I grew up with Dal Makhani, but often hear people talk about it as Maa ki dal, or even Dal Bukhara (same beans but more tomato-y). A rose by any other name ... a dal by any other origin ... would taste as sweet!

Usually when making dal, every single ingredient would go into the pressure cooker, though not all at once ... lol ... but not this time. I find that cooking the tomato gravy before introducing it to the dal makes for a richer taste as you allow the onions to brown and the tomato to sweeten, while at the same time waiting for the pulses to soften in the pressure cooker. Ok ... it's another pan to wash, but an overall less cooking time. Yay! Happiness is the shortest time between you and your food ;)

200g (1 cup) whole black grams, washed and soaked overnight
50g (1/4 cup) red kidney beans, washed and soaked overnight
3 cups water
3 bay leaves
2 inch piece of cinnamon bark
2 cloves

2 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 onion, diced finely
1 green chili, chopped
1 cm cut ginger, julienned
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 tbsp tomato paste (or 4 tbsp tomato puree)
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
1/2 cup water
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1 tsp Kashmiri chili powder
1 tsp garam masala
Salt, to taste

To serve:
1/4 cup heavy cream (or yogurt)

1. In a pressure cooker, cook the lentils and beans with the water, bay leaves, cinnamon and cloves for 15 minutes (timing after the cooker is pressurized). Start on a medium high heat, then once at pressure, reduce heat to medium.

2. Meanwhile in a large fry pan, heat the coconut oil (or ghee), then add the cumin seeds along with the onions and green chilies, cook for 2-3 minutes until the onions turn translucent.
3. Add the ginger and garlic, cook a further 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
4. Next up, the tomato paste and the tomatoes. Cook until oil separates from this mixture. About 4-5 minutes. If it starts to dry or stick to the bottom of the pan, add half a cup of water to keep it 'saucy'. It may not need any water if tomato puree was used. The gravy will have browned nicely a little bit by now.
5. Add the turmeric, coriander, chili powder and salt. Mix well and turn off the heat.

6. Back to the pressure cooker ... when the timer is up, carefully release the pressure, then open the lid.
7. Give it a good stirring, then place the tomato gravy into the cooker, stir again.
8. Cover, and cook (without pressure) until it comes to a gentle boil, about 4-5 minutes.
9. Lower the heat and simmer for another 5 minutes.
10. Stir in garam masala, and add salt, if needed.
11. To serve, pour a swirl of heavy cream and finish with a heap of cilantro.

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