Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Northern Pride & Daal Makhaani (Lentils in Creamy Sauce)

India is such a vastly varying country, in terms of weather, landscape, cultures and ofcourse food. Although all Indian kitchens will stock almost all the same spices and condiments, what element is used often and more commonly in a particular kitchen will depend on the region. So while coconut (in all its form) will be a common thing in the south indian pantry, mustard seeds in east indian cupboards, peanuts in the west and curd, invariably used in west indian kitchens.

Daal Makhaani is the staple of the North Indian people. It is lentils cooked in a spicy and creamy curry/sauce. Pulses are a highly nutritious food group comprising beans, peas and lentils, it is essentially filled with rich proteins and fiber. It is very good for growing children owing to its rich nutritive value. This dish is extremely popular not just in North India but elsewhere as well.
Its the new Chicken Tikka Masala of the world,when it comes to Indian cuisine.

I have my "northern connections" too.
My paternal grandfather was a native 'zamindaar' (landlord/gentry) of a village in Northern India. As a child, a visit to our ancestral (need I say palatial) home was eagerly looked forward to during vacations. We would choreograph (?) dance moves in the humongous chowk in the middle of what looked like six fortresses joined together by corridors and beautifully architectured walls. With four wells in the backyard and a porch you can't see the end of, this was a great place to play hide-and-seek, and would take days (may be weeks) to find one another. It was only inevitable that we kids were counted before and after each meal by my aunt...lol.

I remember clearly, the farm-lands with the squishy mud, I did not want to set foot on, the heavy bucket in the well, which I could not draw without two more adults helping me,...... the smell of the burning charcoal, on which the daal makhaani was cooked slowly for hours by the cook, while she hummed to herself. The aroma of the ghee (clarified butter) and garam masala brought us to the kitchen all the time. We kids hadn't seen anything other than gas stoves in the city, so the charcoal, the mud stove, the huge couldrons were all too amazing for us.

Whenever I make daal makhaani, I am reminded of our village and the rustic beauty of all things there. This is my version of the traditional daal makhani.

Daal Makhaani


1 cup whole urad/black gram lentil
1/3 cup kidney beans/rajma
1/2 cup whole green moong dal
1/2 cup masoor dal
2 tbsp whole red grams/chana

(all the above lentils need to be soaked overnight)

2 tbs grated ginger
2 tsp coarsely ground fennel seeds
1 tsp red chilli powder (accord to taste)
1 tsp. turmeric powder

1/2 tsp dried mango powder or dried pomegranate seeds
3-4 tbs. ghee/clarified butter or oil (I use ghee + olive oil, to make it healthier)
2 tsp. cumin seeds
a large pinch of hing/asafoetida
1 tbsp minced ginger & garlic
1 medium onion,finely chopped
2 medium tomatoes, finely chopped
1 tsp. Garam Masala
1/2 cup fresh cream. ( you can use low fat yogurt)
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves (for garnish, optional)
Salt to taste
approx. 8 cups water (to cook dal)


Cook the already soaked dal and rajma in 7-8 cups of water with salt, red chili powder, fennel seeds powder, turmeric and grated ginger till all the pulses are cooked and soft.
(Pressure cook for 5-6 whistles--recommended, if you are in a hurry like me).
Lightly mash dal and rajma mixture, keep aside.

In a wok, heat the olive oil and ghee (equal proprtions). Add the cumin seeds. Once they splutter, add the onions and pomegranate seeds.
After the onions sweat and are browned, add the tomatoes, ginger-garlic paste and asafoetida.
Add the garam masala. Stir and finally add the cooked daal to this.
Mix well. Now add the fresh cream and stir.
Add the salt to taste. Sprinkle with freshly chopped coriander.

Serve with tandoori roti, paratha ,naan and/or plain rice; with a dollop of butter/cream, if desired.
Note:This is one of those dishes where you can't compromise on flavour, hence I don't pinch too much when it comes to the ghee or fresh cream. (Its once in a while indulgence)!!

I would like to send this special dish for a very special event BloggerAid: Because We Can Help.
Giz (of Equal Oppurtunity Kitchen), Ivy (of Kopiaste) and Val (of More Than Burnt Toast), joined forces to raise awareness and money for the World Food Programme of the United Nations' frontline agency in the fight against global hunger.

You can join in too just like I did.

On a similar note : Today, one of the wings of our ancestral home in the village is used for a great cause. It houses a school where all the village kids go to study and receive free lunches....one of my grandfather's few wishes fulfilled!

And most of all, I share this with Suganya (of Tasty Palettes) whos' the gracious host for the sixth helping of the My Lugume Love Affair started originally by Susan (of Well Seasoned Cook) as a monthly event, but which now is on its 6th edition and has hosts lined up for next year already. :)

I also offer this to Trupti (Recipe Center) who is hosting Winter Treat Event.

I send this to Lore of Culinarty, for her monthly event


  1. What a lovely dish and lovely presentation. Although most of the ingredients are not easily found here in Greece I can imagine how lovely this would be. Thanks for sending this over to BloggerAid and to Giz, who is this month's host of the event.

  2. I'm glad I could play a part Ivy. Thanks to u Giz, and Val.

  3. Thank you so much for submitting such a lovely dish Navita. Hing and mango powder are new to me as are many Indian spices, but when I seek them out I have found most spices here in our community. Thank you for sharing a piece of your childhood with us:D

  4. It was fun reminiscing the past.Glad I could share a part of my life.:)

  5. Your lentils look delicious and I liked learning more about India. :)

  6. Absolutely beautiful - thank you for this wonderful entry to Bloggeraid: Because we Can Help"

  7. Glad I could tell you something new about India Gloria.

    Gee..thanks Giz.

  8. You're really lucky to have so many kinds of lentils available there (we only have a couple)! It all looks delish and thank you for sharing it with the Original Recipes Round-Up :)

  9. dal makhani looks delicious, Navita! loved reading through ur memories...i was introduced to this wonderful dish only recently (can u believe it!!) and i am in love!! i have always wanted to make them, but have thought of it as a tough one to make!

  10. JZ It isn't really tough..infact its quite quick..just the soaking of the lentils o/night needs to be done. Thats it. It takes 10 mins at most (excluding the pressure cooking of the lentils).Hope u make it someday.

  11. You made that sound absolutely mouthwatering! I could eat it till I burst, YUM!

  12. u r truly passionate about food...from the origins to the ends in our plates :) have recently rediiscovered my own love for food...and ur blog is a delight.am following it and ur now on my blogroll...for anyone else who wants to learn how to cook well :o)
    do check out my blog...give me ur opinions.would love to know what u think.


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