New Year’s Resolutions Rock: Dal Makhani

February 28, 2013

I’m not going to lie: I love, love, love New Year’s. Especially making resolutions. I’m a writer who covets my pens and pencils. Who keeps my best ones in a little, tan leather pen holder from Coach. Who actually has a collection of notebooks. I’ve never met one that I didn’t love. And on New Year’s I have the ability to purchase a new notebook, the blank pages a symbol of the opportunities ahead and the many amazing and beautiful lists to come. This New Year’s is no different.

My resolutions include new and old ones: eat better (i.e. no sugar for the first 30 days except fruit), exercise for a minimum 30 minutes a day for the first 30 and onwards, and to write and recipe test more. (This last one will hopefully benefit all of you!) AND to log over 20,000 ‘Likes’ on my Facebook Fan page, Indian as Apple Pie.

I have the honor to work on book three, after the first two books were exceptionally successful. For this I want to thank all of you. I truly appreciate you taking a chance on me – a cook with  a reporter’s passion to teach everything I’ve learned over the years about my favorite cuisine on the planet: Indian.

In the next book, I aim to tackle all the recipes you think about when you head out to eat Indian in a restaurant. And, show you not only the traditional ways to make it, but also how to make these dishes healthier and in some cases Vegan.

What I want you to do? Make them! And give me feedback on what you think and how you are using the recipes. AND, continue to spread the word about this blog and my Facebook Fan page. This last one is key – as I have a bet on with my Publisher to get the Likes up to that number I mentioned earlier. Gulp, 20,000.

You have already given me some great feedback. Recently I ran a contest that asked all of my Facebook Fan friends to tell me their favorite Indian food. There were a whopping 72 entries with everything from roti to rajmah. But, I had to narrow it down to 2 winners (which I did through a website that picks numbers randomly).

They are…..drumroll please…… Carolyn Lloyd, who said she can eat chana masala every day along with some butter naan (yum, agreed!). And, Kyle Evan Pratt, who says he made butter-fried naan once. These two folks will get an entire gift pack of my new book, Vegan Indian, a Spice Tiffin, and a set of Basic Spices. Just send me an email with your address Congratulations to you – and to everyone else? Keep trying. I’ll have more give-aways I absolutely promise!

Some of you said this next recipe is one of your faves, so here we go…

Dal Makhani
makes 8 cups

Dal means pulses or lentils. Makhani means butter in Hindi. So, this lentil dish is essentially one cooked with loads of butter. But, it’s come to symbolize much more than just that. It’s a symbol of a hearty lentil, vegetarian dish that even many meat eaters are satisfied consuming. Originally made in Punjabi homes, this lentil dish was made popular in India and abroad through the proliferation of restaurants that offered this hearty, wholesome take on stewed lentils. Typically, dal makhani is made with black lentils and a smattering of red kidney beans. It is also typically cooked over a low flame for several hours at a time. Some recipes add a handful of chana dal, but not in our house. Of course there is butter and cream in the restaurant version, but you can also do away with that. In my mother-in-law’s home, this dalis always a part of Diwali (our new year) and never had cream in it. Make it to suit your tastes. But, be sure to make it – you may just give your local Indian restaurant a run for their money.

1 3/4 cups whole, dried black lentils with skin (urad dal), cleaned* and washed
1/2 cup dried kidney beans, cleaned and washed
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
10 cups water (plus more if needed)
1 medium yellow or red onion, peeled and cut into large pieces
1 1-inch piece ginger, peeled
4 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, oil, or vegan margarine
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon coriander powder
1 teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne
1-3 green Thai chiles or Serranos, stems removed and chopped
6 oz. can tomato paste (w/out salt)
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt
pinch of cardamom powder
1 teaspoon dried fenugreek leaves (crushed lightly in hand to release flavor)
1/4 cup heavy cream, cashew cream, or coconut milk
fresh, chopped cilantro

1. In a roomy bowl, soak lentils and kidney beans in about 8 cups of water ideally overnight. If you’re pressed for time, use boiled water to soak them for at least 4 hours. Though, this might increase your cooking time a bit. Drain the water when finished soaking. 

2. In a deep and heavy-bottomed pan, add the lentil/beans, turmeric, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, cloves, and 10 cups water. Bring water to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for about 1 1/2 hours with a lid on the pot but slightly ajar. Once the legumes are cooked, turn the heat off and fit the lid so that it covers the pan completely. Let the cooked lentil/beans sit while you work on the next few steps.


Tip: If a foam forms on the top, just skim it off and discard. Continue to cook.

3. Meanwhile, in a food processor, grind the onion, ginger, and garlic into a watery paste. You’ll end up with about 2/3 of a cup.




4. In a sautee pan on the side, heat butter over medium-high.

Add cumin seeds and cook until they sizzle, about 40 seconds. Add the onion, ginger, and garlic paste. Mix well and cook until slightly browned (about 4 minutes).

5. Add cumin powder, coriander, red chile, and green chiles. Mix well and cook another 30-40 seconds.



6. Add tomato paste and 1/4 cup water. Cook another few minutes, mixing occasionally. Use a little more water to make sure this does not dry out.

7. Put this mixture into the pot of cooked lentils and beans. Mix well. Add salt, cardamom powder, and fenugreek. Simmer another 15 minutes. Remove whole spices, garnish with cilantro and serve with  rotinaaan, or basmati rice.

*When a recipe calls for cleaning your lentils and beans, do it! There is nothing worse than overlooking a tiny rock and biting into it during a meal. The best way to do this is put a handful of lentils on one end of a large white plate.

With one hand, sweep a few lentils at a time towards you, picking out any tiny rocks and debris along the way. I usually take an afternoon to do a few bags, then store the lentils in  glass jars for washing later as you’re getting ready to cook them up. Never wash them and then try to store them, as lentils can get moldy. They spoil if stored even slightly moist.

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