Dal can refer to the types of pulses from all over South Asia, and it can also refer to a soup made from those beans and lentils. Soups with lentils or beans are economical and protein-rich, are popular all over the world. A relatively thick style of dal from the north of India and Pakistan, is perfect over rice for a satisfying lunch. This is dal makhani. This is an easy dish to adapt for vegan and vegetarian tastes, but it is often made with heavy cream, and I like to make mine with cream, ghee, and if I have it, chicken stock. It is delicious without these too, and I’ve made this enough times with various substitutes, that I find its adaptations are infinite.
This is one of those dishes that you can make mostly from things in the pantry, if you have to. It is best with delicious fresh tomatoes, ginger, garlic and onions, but it good too with canned tomatoes and ginger powder.
If you have a pressure cooker, this is also pretty convenient to do altogether in one pot.
The star ingredient here is urad dal. Chances are good that you’ll find this at your local South Asian grocer. I got this bag from Sabzi Mandi, far west Philly near Upper Darby. The end texture of the soup/stew will be almost like a (sorry vegan readers) ground beef protein chew. If you are vegan but miss that kind of density, this might be a perfect substitute for you to use in place of ground beef in things like chili.
This is a creamy, protein-packed stew of beans and urad dal. It is great with bread (naan traditionally) or rice. Here is a recipe for my pressure cooker method:
Recipe: Dal makhani
- 3-4 Tblsp oil (or ghee, or oil+ghee)
- 2 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 1+ tsp shredded ginger
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- 2 medium tomatoes, chopped
- 1 1/4 cups red kidney beans or other (pinto beans are nice too), soaked overnight
- 2/3 cups whole black urad dal, soaked overnight
- 1 tsp each: tumeric, ground cayenne, ground coriander, garam masala
- large pinch asafoetida
- salt to taste
- large pinch of sugar
- stock or water to comfortably cover all ingredients
- heavy cream
- 2 Tbls chopped cilantro (optional)
1. Soak beans and dal overnight. I just soak them together in one bowl. Drain.
2. finely chop an onion. Put the oil and or ghee in your pot, get it medium hot and start frying cumin seeds. Before they burn, put onions in and mix. Have tomatoes and/or water/stock on hand in case this mix is in danger of burning. When onions are translucent, you can add all items except the heavy cream and cilantro.
3. Cover tightly and bring to pressure (if using pressure cooker–if not, simmer covered until beans and dal are cooked). Reduce heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes.
4. Remove from heat to depressurize the cooker and open. Beans and dal should be cooked and tender. Mash some of them to produce a thicker sauce. Taste for salt, and salt if necessary. Add in 2-3 Tblsp heavy cream and stir. Serve. Top with shredded ginger and/or chopped cilantro and another spoon of heavy cream.
NOTE: this just tastes better later on. Great for weekday lunches later in the week.