This is one of my favorite dal dishes. Dal is the generic word for lentils, makhani means buttery. So literally, this dish means buttery lentils and it can definitely be made with a lot of butter and cream and can get a tad heavy. It needn’t though, and the recipe below is light on the fats. It is basically black gram lentils (whole urad dal) and kidney beans (rajma) cooked with tomatoes, garlic, ginger, cream and a few spices. So it’s pretty rich in protein and fibre.
This dish is originally from the north Indian state of Punjab and like most Punjabi dishes, is a hearty dish – even if you do not use that much cream. This is mostly because the whole urad lentils and kidney beans together are fairly heavy pulses. The ginger in the dish definitely helps counter the heavy feeling one may have after eating this. So don’t be miserly on the ginger in it!
Some notes before you start:
- While you can cook the black gram lentils + kidney beans in a pot of some sort, a pressure cooker works wonders.
- Make sure you really clean the black grams and kidney beans before starting to cook, since often these are really dirty. Put them in a strainer and let water run through, while you use your hands to clean through the grains.
Finally, this is a dish that requires some amount of preparation and takes longer to cook than most other dal dishes, but when well made, it’s a real treat! It’s best served with tandoori breads – like tandoori rotis or naans, paranthas or even with rice.
Here are ingredient portions for 2-3 people:
- A cup of black gram lentils (whole or sabut urad dal)
- 1/3 cup of kidney beans
- 3 medium tomatoes
- Olive oil or vegetable oil (your choice of cooking oil)
- 1 tablespoon grated ginger or 1 tablespoon ginger paste
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic or 1 tablespoon garlic paste
- 1/3 cup heavy cream, or more to taste
- Red chilli pepper powder to taste
- 1.5 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 1 heaped teaspoon cumin powder
- 1 heaped teaspoon coriander powder
- A few cilantro leaves, to garnish (if you want to be that fancy)
And this is how we do it:
- Soak: mix the lentils and beans in a large pot, cover with water to at least twice, thrice the height of the lentils and beans and soak overnight. Eight hours is good.
- Clean: after soaking, clean the mixture as described above.
- Pressure cook: Add the cleaned up lentils and beans to a pressure cooker, add 1 1/3 cup water, 1 teaspoon salt and mix thoroughly. Close up the pressure cooker. Cook up to 6 whistles (your pressure cooker might be different). Take off heat after the whistles, let it sit till the pressure comes down.
- Puree tomatoes: Wash and quarter tomatoes, blend. (You might need to add a wee bit of water to get the blending going).
- Heat a little bit of olive oil or vegetable oil in another pan, add the ginger, garlic, cumin and coriander and as it starts crackling/browning add the pureed tomato. Mix thoroughly. Cook on high heat, stirring occasionally so the volume comes down and the puree gets thicker. The paste will go from pink to red.
- From the pressure cooker, add the softened up, cooked lentil-bean mix to the pan with the thickened tomato puree. Mix thoroughly. If upon opening the pressure cooker there was too much liquid left, drain it, but do not drain away all of it. You might even want to keep it in a glass nearby to use in case you need more liquid to cook in later.
- Mix the tomato puree + spices with the lentil – bean mixture thoroughly, add the red chilli powder, remaining salt if needed and mix thoroughly, stirring occasionally. Cook on high for a while and then lower the heat to medium.
- Add the cream and mix in thoroughly, cook on medium heat and let it simmer. Later shut the heat, let the excess liquid evaporate. Mix it up thoroughly before serving.
- And yeah, if you want it to look fancy, sprinkle those cilantro leaves on top before serving.