Saturday 14 February 2009

MLLA8 Dal Makhani

When seeking out new Indian dishes to inspire me I have seen many versions of Dal Makhani (aka maa ki dal, maa di dal or kaali dal). I love dal and the pictures I have seen of this intense rich Punjabi version of the spiced lentil stew have beckoned me. Most recently I saw a version on Dhivya’s Culinary Bazaar that I decided to try.

I found I had to make a few changes to suit my ingredients and preferences. Dhivya soaked and cooked 1 cup of whole black lentils (whole black urad dal), but I used a tin of brown lentils. I did use dried kidney beans because I had some left in the pantry. I made other minor adjustments. The main change I would make next time is to reduce the cardamom because it seemed a much stronger flavour than the other spices, so I think half a teaspoon next time.

I was pleased when the recipe called for a bay leaf that I could duck out to the garden and pick a fresh one. It is a joy having a stock of herbs by the back door but it has been a bit of work tending them in the hot weather. I have included a photo of my little bay plant here to show you how sunburnt it has been in the recent heat.

I also chose to use a fresh green chilli rather than chilli paste or cayenne pepper which I sometimes use. I particularly dislike chopping chillis and usually wear rubber gloves to avoid having them all over my hands. I didn’t when I started chopping this chilli and managed to wipe some of the chilli on my cheek and got a red burning mark there for my troubles. So I was interested to see in one of the early scenes in SlumDog Millionaire that not only do others wear rubber gloves to handle chillis but also just how painfully chillis can burn the skin in the case of direct contact.

Dhivya served her dal makhani with roti which seems quite traditional according to the Wikipedia entry. I also have found versions of dal makhani written up by Lisa, Meeta, and Jai and Bee if you are interested in seeing how others approach it.

I served it with brown rice and some sticks of raw carrot and cucumber. It was a bit intense without a few vegtables on the side. I had good intentions of making a vegetable side dish (Palak Paneer) but ran out of energy. Nevertheless, it was well received. It was creamy and rich with lots of interesting spices. The cream helped reduce some of the bite so it wasn’t too hot for me. E loved it and was delighted to hear that we had leftovers for the next night.

This legume-rich dish is just right for My Legume Love Affair so I am sending this to Susan at the Well Seasoned Cook who founded the event and is hosting the 'eighth helping' this month.

Dal Makhani
(adapted from A Culinary Bazaar)
serves 4

¼ cup dried kidney beans, soaked and cooked
400g tin brown lentils, drained and rinsed
50g butter
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 red onion, chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger finely grated
1 tsp coriander powder
½ tsp turmeric powder
½-1 tsp ground cinnamon (1 used ½)
2 cloves, ground
1 tin diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
¼ cup water
1 tsp dried fenugreek leaves (kasuri methi) – I didn’t use
½-1 tsp cardamom seeds, ground (I used 1)
½ cup cream (or yoghurt)
salt to taste and fresh coriander (cilantro) to garnish (optional)

In a large saucepan, melt butter, add cumin seeds for a couple of seconds and then add onion, cloves, cinnamon, turmeric, coriander, ginger, garlic, and chilli. Sauté around 5-10 minutes til onion is soft and spices smelling aromatic. Stir frequently to stop the mixture sticking.

Add the diced tomatoes, lentils, kidney beans, bay leaf and water. Add salt to taste (I merely added a pinch). Bring to the boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for15-20 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent the mixture catching on the bottom of the saucepan.

Add the fenugreek leaves (if using) and the cardamom powder, stir and then add the cream. Gently simmer uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove bay leaf.

Garnish with fresh coriander if desired. Serve hot with rice, naan and/or roti.

On the stereo:
Gods and devils: Seelenlicht


  1. Sounds lovely. There is something so comforting about red spicy lentils.

  2. I love Dal when we eat out, I just really need to think of it more when I'm planning dinners.
    This looks so very good Johanna.

  3. Mmm I could definitely go for a one-pot meal like this! :)

  4. Mmm Dal is fantastic and I also love how good for you it is and if you make your own at home, you can reduce the amount of oil used. I also use gloves when handling hot chilis and lol at the Slumdog Millionaire scene!

  5. Mmmmmm it looks so creamy and delicious!

  6. This looks delicious, especially atop the rice. How lovely to have fresh herbs, despite the challenge of maintaining them in this recent mad weather. Chillis have a nasty habit of embedding their juice in your skin, so I have felt their fury even after washing the dishes the old fashioned way after chopping them.

  7. of my favorite dishes! How lovely, too, that you can harvest fresh bay leaves from your own garden.

    Thanks for sharing this great recipe!

  8. Thanks Katie - lentils are indeed comforting as is the creamy texture

    thanks Tanna - I am the opposite to you - I find dahl is such a great dish to throw together at home, but I don't eat it out so often :-)

    Thanks Chris - it is quite a rich one so I think it needs some veg on the side (steamed broccoli is my usual)

    Thanks Lorraine - this dahl is much richer than those I usually make (and I halved the cream dhivya used) but it still felt nourishing

    Thanks Vegetation - oh I agree!

  9. I love your little bay plant! I never realized they could be used fresh, as I've only ever seen dried varieties! The dal sounds heavenly.

  10. Thanks Ricki - it is lovely to have fresh bay leaves - ours is just a wee plant but there are larger bay trees I have seen about! They seem one of the hardier herbs

  11. I've tried a few versions of this popular dish. Yours sounds wonderful.

  12. I've always thought a good dhal was too much effort but you've inspired me -- it's on the list!

  13. Thanks Lisa - it is a bit overwhelming to see all the different versions of this dish so I stuck with the one that inspired me but might try other versions when next I try it

    thanks Michael - a big pot of dahl lasts a few nights and gets better for sitting overnight - a lot of nutrition and taste for not too much effort!


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