Dal makhani or dal makhni is a dish originating from the northern region of the Indian subcontinent. The primary ingredients are whole black lentil, red kidney beans, butter and cream. This dish is a one pot slow cooked dish which will taste better as you let it cook for longer. In India, we cook this for hours and sometimes overnight in a claypot in charcoal flame to get the perfect smoky well stewed Lentils or Dal.
I have substituted butter and cream with low fat milk and coconut oil. So mine is a healthier version of “Dal Makhani”.
The other ingredients used are ginger, garlic, onions, tomatoes and special bunch of Indian spices used for this dish which is cooked for hours to attain the perfect smoky soupy consistency and taste.
I belong to the Southern part of India and we make a lot of traditional dips otherwise popularly known as “Chutneys”
in the Indian food culture. One can play with this idea and make so many variations of chutneys once you have a basic understanding of making a chutney.
I have picked 3 of my best Chutneys for you—-
1) Coconut Chutney
Toast 1/2 cup of fresh or frozen but thawed coconut in a pan under medium flame with 1 teaspoon of coconut oil with chopped green chili, 2 teaspoon of roasted Bengal gram lentils and salt to taste. Blend in a food processor or blender to turn into a semi smooth paste.
Garnish with Cilantro, mustard seeds and curry leaves.
2) Tomato Chutney
Take a pan under medium flame and add 1 teaspoon of coconut oil, 1 cup of chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds,
1 teaspoon of red cayenne/ chili powder, 1/2 inch of grated fresh ginger or paste, 3 garlic cloves finely chopped and sauté with 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder and salt to taste and blend to a fine paste. Garnish with mustard seeds and curry leaves.
3) TRADITIONAL “THOGAYAL” OR LENTIL CHUTNEY WITH COCONUT
For this chutney, you need 2 teaspoons of Black gram lentils or Black Lentils – although its called black gram these lentils are white on the outside with black seed inside -its called ” Urad dal” in the Indian food culture. You also need 1 teaspoon of Split chickpeas which is yellow in color. Toast both these in a pan under low flame with a teaspoon of coconut oil. Add 1/2 cup of coconut- fresh or frozen grated thawed- and toast with salt and 2/3 fresh red chilis. If you don’t have fresh red chili substitute using cayenne powder. Throw all of this in a blender and grind with as little water as possible. I also add a small piece of fresh tamarind. If not available you can add a teaspoon of lemon juice for acidity. In my household growing up this was one chutney that was never garnished and was gobbled up before it got to the table:)
Benjamin and Rebecca are this wonderful sweet couple who got in touch with me since they had received a gift certificate for a Private Cooking Class with Curryliciousme from Ben’s parents. As always, I exchanged a couple of emails to get to know their preferences- what actually were their favorites and what they did not care for much. After a few exchange of emails, I gathered that Becca was in Hyderabad, India for a few months for studies and that they both loved Indian food!!!
I cannot tell you how adventurous the both of them are! So we came up with a menu – an authentic Indian menu with an appetizer, Kadai paneer, Peas Pilaf and Dal/ Lentil Soup for main course and a sweet vermicelli pudding with raisins and cardamom(sweet heaven!)
They arrived at 1:30pm as we had discussed. We introduced ourselves and I made sure they were comfortable and felt at home:) I had everything ready and organized including the recipes printed out, all the ingredients measured out for ease and pots and pans for them to cook, Chef knives, chopping boards and so forth. Before every cooking class, I always like to see what each person is comfortable doing and assign them tasks accordingly. The main goal here is not to freak them out but for them to enjoy the complete experience and have fun with it. I am a happy girl if I hear from them a week later that they recreated something and came out awesome.
That is the confidence I want to give them and a wonderful fun cooking experience that does not frighten one to take risks and try new food!
Becca wanted to do the appetizer round so we let her be in charge of that and she did an excellent job. We made a chickpea salad with grated coconut, cumin and cilantro.
Then Ben was interested in making the Kadai Paneer so he started chopping some onions, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and bell peppers. Me and Becca started working on the lentils on the side. It was so much fun. Just peeking at what each one’s doing, chatting, laughing, sharing experiences, food stories:)))
The reason we always start lentils early is since they take a long time to cook. So we toasted the lentils with a bunch of spices, ginger, garlic, onion and tomatoes and added water and let it cook covered for sometime stirring intermittently.
By then Ben had started to work on the Kadai Paneer. He had a hot pan of oil with some cumin, garam masala, lemon pepper, garlic powder, cayenne along with chopped onions, green chili, onions and tomatoes. Once that was cooked Ben transferred it to a blender and put it aside. Then Becca started chopping the Indian Cottage Cheese or Paneer into cubes and tossed them in butter to get all the sides browned up a little. Ben loved to crush some fresh coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle:) Then we added some oil on another heated pan, added some more chopped onions, bell peppers and tomatoes and let them cook the crushed coriander seeds and some dried fenugreek leaves.
We added the brown paneer cubes to the pan and transferred the blended mixture as well and let it cook for few minutes. We added salt as per taste and they simply loved it!!!! By then, the dal was ready as well.
We also cooked some hot peas pilaf in my traditional cooker that my mom had passed over to me from India. Ben and Becca were very excited to cook in a traditional cooker and Ben almost was surprised to hear the whistle that the cooker made!!! I had given them some taster samples of the hot peas pilaf with kadai paneer and dal and they enjoyed every bite of it. I also packed them “dibbas” or boxes with all the food they made:) so they can have it for dinner later today evening.
For dessert we also made a pudding with vermicelli, clarified butter, raisins and cardamom. I hope they enjoyed it!!!
Looking forward to many more cooking experiences with wonderful people like Ben and Becca….. and they have promised to be back soon:)
Its been raining and I feel like making a hot bowl of my spicy currylicious tomato soup but with a twist as always! LENTILS:) yes, I add some lentils to my tomato soup. The room fills up with flavor and fragrance of the spices that I add to it which makes it spicy as well. It’s Currylicious and healthy on a rainy day like today and the best for stuffy congested sinuses! Check out the recipe in my recipe section!
4 ripe tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
An inch piece of fresh ginger
Few fresh black peppercorns
Cumin seeds, a pinch
Pinch of turmeric
1 tsp mustard seeds
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp coriander powder
1/4 cup yellow lentils
Juice of 1 lemon
Chop tomatoes, garlic and ginger.
Boil 1/2 a crockpot of water, add all the spices, then tomatoes, garlic and ginger. Let them cook for about 5 to 10 min s.
Transfer tomatoes, ginger garlic mixture into a blender and blend well.
Meantime cook your lentils and either use a hand blender or a whisk to break down the lentils to a smooth consistency. Add the lentils onto the blended tomato mixture.
Now grind the peppercorns and transfer them as well.
Finally take a small pan and add some oil, add cumin seeds, mustard seeds and wait till seeds splutter.
Now transfer this to the tomato lentil mixture. Garnish with coriander leaves. Smells and tastes Currylicious! Enjoy!