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Monday, November 21, 2005

The king of Dals - Dal Makhaani

Lentils (or what we call Dal) have a strange association with Indian food. For thousands of years.... they have been tried and experimented and the taste has evolved from simple boiled soups to beautifully textured curries...... And still - depending on the mood and the vegetables that you're cooking - Dal till this date can blend beautifully and can be either the highlight of the spread or the silent accomplice.

So the long promised Maharajah of Lentil curries is here today.
Dal Makhaani, literally means 'Lentils in Cream'. And people have all sorts of ways of making their Dal creamy..... some add bucket loads while the curry is cooking while some others prefer to garnish the Dal with a large dollop right at the end. I do whatever I feel like depending on the mood! :)

Dal Makhaani

Ingredients --

1 cup - Black Lentils
1/2 cup - Kidney beans
1/2 cup - Bengal Gram *Chana dal*
1/4 cup - Yellow Lentils or Toor Dal *Arhar dal*

1 inch finger of ginger chopped coarsely
1 tablespoon garlic finely chopped
1 large tomato (or two small ones) finely chopped
1 large onion finely chopped
2 green/red chillies finely chopped

1 tablespoon Coriander powder *dhania powder*
1 tablespoon Garam Masala
1/2 tablespoon Rajmah Masala
1 tiny pinch of asafoetida *heeng*
2 teaspoons of turmeric powder *haldi*
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds *jeera*
4 table spoon of oil/ghee
Chilli flakes (optional or how hot u'd like)
Salt to taste

And ofcourse Cream!

Method --

1. Mix the Black lentils, Kidney beans, Bengal gram lentils and Yellow lentil and wash thoroughly. Then soak these lentils in water (enough to cover the lentils and an inch above the level of the lentils) - for atleast 4-5 hours. You can simply leave them overnight if you want them all ready for your Saturday lunch!
2. Wash the lentil mix after soaking is complete and pressure cook them with ginger, turmeric powder and salt. Let it cook for upto 4 whistles.

*Basically the more you soak - the less whistles you need and vice versa! I have cheated at times and soaked the lentils for barely two hours and then given them upto 8 whistles!! And all just to make sure that the lentils and the kidney beans are cooked really well.*

3. In a large pan, heat the oil. Add the asafoetida and cumin seeds and cook slightly till they sputter. Add the chopped chillies and cook for a minute.
4. Add the onions and garlic. Cook for a few minutes till the onions turn golden brown. Add spices - i.e. turmeric powder, chilli flakes, Coriander powder, Garam masala and Rajmah Masala. Mix well and let the spices blend with each other and layer the onions.
5. Add the tomatoes and cook the mixure for upto 3 minutes or till the whole mix turns into a saucy paste. Can add half a cup of water while cooking if the mix is too dry.
6. Add the boiled Lentils, mix the whole mixture really well and cook in low flame for about 10 minutes.

All done!

Garnish with chopped coriander and serve with a dollop of cream in top. For cream lovers you can add the cream to the cooking Dal in the last minute and let it blend into a milky looking Dal.

This can be enjoyed with warm rotis or Naan or steamed Basmati rice!