When I was in school, my friends and I went out for dinner to Dhaba Express. As my family’s diet was more traditional we would usually go to South Indian restaraunts only but most of them would serve North Indian food. So places like Dhaba Express was one that I would have been able to visit only with my friends. It was then that I fell for a lovely dish that came in a small pot. A friend ordered it for us and when it arrived I was surprised to see that it was brown in colour as I was expecting dal in yellow colour. I tried it and liked it a lot and so loved its taste lingering in the mouth. Not sure why but for years from then I never happened to eat this dish elsewhere. Sometime back my husband and I went to Aberdeen to visit friends and also do our quarterly Indian grocery shopping. I was trying to get Urad dal to make idli but the shop only had the whole Urad dal with skin. As always, called up my helpline i.e. my mom to find if I could use it and my grandmother suggested that it could be used and whole dal with skin was healthy. I had also got the broken skinned Urad dal not knowing which one we will prefer. I first tried idlis with the latter and was happy with it and hence did not get to use the lovely whole dal. Not having the heart to waste it I thought I will pamper myself by trying Dal Makhani. There was another reason, we do not normally like rajma but this could be a good recipe to take it in.
Urad dal is also called black gram and is said to be a good source of calcium and some iron as well. Kidney bean apparently is said to be rich in folate, dietary fibre and manganese. It is also said to help prevent cancer, absorb iron and prevent tooth decay, just to mention a few. I wish we could like it more.
Anyway, in my bid to bring all this goodness together in this simple recipe, here is what I do:
1 medium sized red onion
1.5 cups tomato puree
1 teaspoon chilli powder
100 ml cream (single or double depending on my mood really)
½ cup Black gram
1 handful of rajma or kidney beans
Soak rajma and black gram for about 6 hours and pressure cook. I like the dal to be slightly mushy but by their nature, they tend to hold shape unless mashed. In a heavy bottomed vessel add about 1 tablespoon cooking oil and fry the onions. Once onions are transparent add the tomato puree and cook until they come together. Add the chilli powder, stir and add the cooked dal. I normally retain the water in which the dal was cooked to add to the dish as it gives good colour and is nutritious. Add required amount of salt and allow the mixture to boil for about 10 minutes so the lentils can absorb the flavour from tomato and onion. Add cream (more the merrier but I would urge you not to add much as it is supposedly high in saturated fat). The flavour of this recipe really lies in simmering this mixture for a long time. I usually simmer for atleast 30 minutes and even as I make the chapattis. You could mash some of the dal and/or add the water in which dal was cooked to achieve desired consistency.
This is a very simple recipe which is usually very rich but I try to keep it healthy by not using butter (though the name is makhani) as I am happy with the taste. Usually when I have this on the menu my other meal would not contain much fat just to keep the balance right.
When using pulses and lentils that need to be soaked, please ensure they are washed a good few times as otherwise some toxins that they are said to release could be harmful.