Lodhi gardens! Pandara Road, Khan market, this is where I grew up. Sometimes my coworkers and I would deliberately forget to bring lunch so we could order in from the Moti Mahal takeout in Jorbagh market. We`d dial the number. Huffing and puffing on his cycle, the delivery man would bring up to our desk a steaming pot of dal makhani in a clay pot, pulao rice wrapped in aluminium foil and the most amazing pink onions I’d ever laid my eyes on. While the restaurant dal was creamy from loads of butter and cream & probably delivered a whopping and hefty calorie count, over time I`ve been playing with this recipe to maintain its creamy essence without losing on taste or texture. Read on to find out how.
1 ½ cups brown masoor dal
½ cup rajma or red kidney beans
1/3 cup tomato paste
1 tsp fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1/2 tsp fresh ginger cut into thin strips and sautéed in a little oil
1 tsp fresh ginger, chopped
1 tsp garlic, chopped finely
¼ tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp cayenne pepper
4 grains cumin seeds
1 tbsp coconut oil
salt to taste
Pots n pans
Wok or Frying Pan
- Wash and rinse rajma thoroughly in running cold water a couple of times. Discard water & soak in fresh water overnight or at least 4 hours. Repeat the same washing and rinsing process separately for the masoor dal. Soak in a separate pan-I`ll tell you in a bit why these 2 beans need to soaked and cooked separately.
- Pressure cook beans in their separate pans till soft and slightly mushy. Take off stove and let cool.
- Heat oil and add cumin seeds. Quickly add hing, turmeric & cayenne pepper. Watch carefully that spices don`t burn but just lightly coated with oil & then add onion and stir till cooked and soft. Add ginger and garlic and stir quickly till lightly brown.
- Add tomato paste and fry till the oil separates from the spice mix.
- Add cooked rajma, 2 tbsp cooked masoor dal, 1/4 cup water and cook till beans are soft. Take off fire and let cool.
- Grind this spice gravy in food processor till smooth.
- Turn heat on. Add spice gravy back to pan and also cooked masoor dal. Add salt to taste. Let everything boil. Depending on how creamy you like your dal, you can mash the dal a bit while its heating. When you see creamy swirls forming on dal surface, take off heat. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves.SOS There’s my trick to maintain flavour without any butter or cream. You probably guessed the creaminess comes from the rajma I soaked and cooked separately so I could mash it up for creamy gravy. Hope you enjoyed this simple yet powerful tip.
Though traditional dal makhani uses urad dal in a lengthy process with loads of butter and cream to get that creamy texture, I used masoor dal which is readily available to get the same effect, With no added cream or butter, this dal is just as delicious if not more. Masoor dal is probably the most popular dal in Indian cooking. It comes in 2 varieties-one with its skin on and is brown in colour and the other which has been polished and red in colour. I like both however in this recipe I prefer the brown variety since when cooked the skin comes off slightly adding a nice texture to the dal.
Maharaja Ranjit Singh’s chef once cooked masoor dal for his king. He spent upwards of a few hundred rupees, pricey for that time, The maharaja was livid that his chef spent so much on a dal. Offended the chef left his court.Of course the chef got his next job quite easily with the Nawab of Bahawalpur.
Hearing this news, Ranjit Singh’s courtiers advised him to call the chef back otherwise word would get out that Ranjit Singh couldn’t afford “masoor ki dal”. When the cook was approached, he simply refused to return to and said in Hindi, “ye mu aur masoor ki daal?”.Loosely translated this meant that cheap face (aka the Majaraja) doesn’t deserve a rich masoor dal.
Hands down winter is the best time to enjoy dal makhani.Since we didn’t use any onions in this dish & I sorely felt its absence, I wanted to pair the dal with the same pink onions that I tasted in delhi .Eventually I came to the conclusion that the pink colour is from a vinegar soak. Having no vinegar at home, I experimented with fresh lime juice. I think you`ll agree dear reader we have a winner here :).Serve dal makhani with some chapati or with steamed white basmati rice. Don`t forget the pink onions and if you happen to have this dal the following day after its made, you`ll find the flavours deeper and even more delicious if that`s possible.