September 26, 2010

Project Food Blog Challenge #2: Dal Makhani

I would first like to start off by saying, thank you so very much for all of your votes and support in this challenge! I was so thrilled when I found out that I advanced to the next level in Project Food Blog!

In the second Project Food Blog challenge, "The Classics", we were to tackle a classic dish from another culture other than Italian and French cuisines. We had to pick an ethnic classic that is outside of our comfort zone or are not familiar with.

This challenge was difficult in the beginning. How do you even begin to pick a dish that you are unfamiliar with? I have no family or friends from another country that cook, so I knew that I would have no interesting story to go along with whatever dish I decided to make.

Years and years and years ago, I went with a friend to an Indian restaurant in Philadelphia, PA out of curiosity. I ordered the chicken curry and thought it was amazing. That was my first and only experience with Indian food. There is no exciting reason why I picked an Indian dish other than the fact that I know nothing about the cuisine and I am very curious about it. In my research on Indian cuisine, I learned that a "treasured staple food" in India is dal makhani. "Dal" means split grain; pulses. Beans and lentils are highly nutritious and filled with protein and fiber. "Makhani" comes from “makhan”, which means butter. Makhani is a sauce made with butter, tomato and cream. This sauce originates in the northern regions of India, Punjab.

Dal makhani is a hearty, rich, creamy, stew-like dish that you would never in a million years guess was vegetarian! My husband and I thought it was delicious and I know that I will be making this again. Preparation is key in this dish.


Dal Makhan:

  • 1 1/2 c lentils
  • 1 1/2 c red kidney beans
  • 6 c lukewarm water
  • 1/4 c vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp cumin seeds
  • 1 tbsp whole garam masala, recipe follows
  • 1/4 c ginger garlic paste
  • 2 c tomato puree
  • 2 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp coriander powder
  • Salt, to taste
  • 1 stick of butter
  • 2 c dal water (water the beans and lentils were soaking in)
  • 3 c dal (beans and lentils)
  • 1/2 c cream
  • Dollops of butter
  • Fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
Garam masala:
  • 1/4 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp white peppercorns
  • Pinch ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1/8 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp black cardamom
  • 1/4 tsp green cardamom
  • Pinch ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 tsp anise
  • 1/4 tsp coriander seeds
  • The first thing you need to do is a lot of preparation. Rinse the dal (beans and lentils) thoroughly and remove any stems that you see.

  • Next, soak the dal in the water overnight, or for at least 8 hours. When you are ready to prepare the dish the following day, be sure to reserve 2 c of the dal water.
  • Make the garam masala. I found some at Wegman's and bought it to get an idea of what it is supposed to taste like in general.

  • I did some research and found out what common spices make up garam masala. A few of the ingredients I had never even seen before. For instance, black (and green) cardamom. When I took it out of the package I looked at it like, what am I supposed to do with you?! The smell of it was very woody and smoky. I found that you can smash it or grind it. I don't have a spice grinder, so I used my black peppercorn grinder. With a lot of time and tasting, I came up with my own spice mixture for garam masala. It tasted similar to the store-bought version but, in my humble opinion, was much better.
Cooking Directions:
  • Now, on to the cooking of dal makhani.
  • In a large pan, bring the dal to a boil in water. Boil until the beans soften, about 1 hour.
  • Meanwhile, In a large pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the cumin seeds, stirring and cooking for about 1 minute (they will crackle). Add the garam masala. Stir and cook for one more minute. Fenugreek is added at this point but I unfortunately could not find it anywhere!

  • Stir in the ginger garlic past until combined well. Add the tomato puree and bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat to low. Add the salt, coriander powder, chili powder and butter. The colors are so beautiful, aren't they?!

  • Add the dal water and bring to a boil. Add the dal and bring to a boil again. Cover and simmer on low for at least 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. I simmered mine for three hours.

  • When you are ready to serve, drizzle in the cream and add butter. Garnish with coriander leaves.
  • Enjoy!

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