Creamy, hearty, and sometimes smoky, this is the dal you most often find in the buffet lines of Indian restaurants. It’s a treat to make at home once in a while when I’m craving something a little rich, and it quite-frankly tastes better than what I find outside!
- ½ cup whole urad dal
- 2 tablespoons chana dal, optional
- ¼ cup kidney beans (rajma) dried OR 1 14 oz can kidney beans
- 2 tablespoons mustard oil
- Pinch asafoetida (hing)
- 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
- 3-4 dried red chiles
- Medium onion, chopped
- 1 tablespoon ginger, grated
- 3 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
- 4 Thai chiles, sliced
- ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon garam masala
- 2 tomatoes, chopped
- ½ teaspoon dried fenugreek (methi)
- ¼ cup heavy cream
- 2 tablespoons butter, optional
- Salt to taste
- Fresh cilantro
Soak the urad, rajma, and channa overnight.
In a large pot/pressure cooker, heat some mustard oil over medium-high heat until warm. Then add the hing, cumin seeds, and dried red chilies, allowing them to crackle in the oil for a few seconds. Proceed with adding the onions and sauteing until translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, and chopped green chile next, sauteing for a minute. Then add the ground spices (turmeric, coriander, and garam masala) and mix to incorporate. Next add the tomatoes, stirring them around vigorously to release any browned bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Add a little water and allow the mixture to thicken into a jam-like consistency, about 3-5 minutes.
Drain the water from the soaked lentils and add them to the wet masala in the pot. Cover with enough water to submerge the lentils completely, and pressure cook the dal for about 30 minutes.
Once finished, allow the pressure to release from the pot naturally or vent if you are in a hurry. Add the methi to the dal and taste for seasoning, adding salt accordingly. Finish the dal with a splash of heavy cream (around ¼ cup) and some butter if you like. I find that this butter/cream combination helps to tone down the heat. Sprinkle in the cilantro and serve over rice or with naan.
- Mustard oil, made from the seeds of the mustard plants, is the cooking oil of choice in the Punjab region, where this dish originates. It has a deeply pungent aroma and slightly bitter flavor. Find it in Indian stores or online. I’m currently using the Dabur brand.
- You can omit the cream and butter if you want to keep things healthier. Urad dal can be quite creamy on its own, but the word makhani roughly translates to buttery so it makes sense to have a little bit of richness, doesn’t it?