Dal makhani literally means ‘butter lentils’, which pretty much sums up this dish – it’s creamy, smooth and mellow, with an earthiness from the lentils that makes it hard to beat. And despite the name, it’s easy to make this dal vegan, too.
While the dish itself is simple to make, the lentils can be difficult to find. I’ve found them online under several different names – Tesco sell them as ‘urid beans’, but I’ve also seen them as ‘whole urad dal’ and ‘black gram’, so keep an eye out!
Ingredients (serves 4):
– 150g urid beans
– 50g salted butter
– 1 tsp cumin seeds
– 1 large onion, roughly chopped
– 6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 5cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
– 1 green chilli, finely chopped
– 2 tsp garam masala
– 1 tsp ground cumin
– 1 tsp turmeric
– 1½ tsp ground coriander
– ½ tsp chilli powder (or to taste)
– 3 tbsp tomato purée
– 400g tin kidney beans, drained
– 1 bay leaf
– 3 cardamom pods
– 400g tin chopped tomatoes
– 100ml single cream
– handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
- Begin by preparing the urid beans: rinse until the water is clear, then cover with water and leave to soak for at least 6 hours, or overnight.
- Rinse and drain the soaked urid beans, then transfer to a saucepan. Cover with plenty of cold water, bring to the boil then simmer for 45 minutes, discarding any scum, until soft. Leave enough water in the pan to cover the beans; pour out the rest.
- Meanwhile, melt 30g of the butter in a wok. Add the cumin seeds and heat until they begin to sizzle, then stir in the onion and turn down the heat. Cook gently for 10 minutes, until the onion begins to caramelise.
- Stir in the garlic, ginger and chilli and cook for a few more minutes before adding the garam masala, ground cumin, turmeric, ground coriander and chilli powder. Stir to coat; cook for another minute then add the tomato purée, kidney beans, bay leaf, cardamom pods, chopped tomatoes, half the cream and the cooked urid dal, along with the water. If necessary add a little more water so everything is covered, then bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 1½ hours.
- Remove the bay leaf and cardamom pods. Stir in the remaining butter and cream, and top with the chopped coriander. Serve with rice and naan (my favourite recipe is Felicity Cloake’s, if I have time to make my own).
Tip: although this is traditionally made with dairy, you can easily make it vegan – switch the butter for dairy-free spread and the cream for soya cream.