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Vineeta Anand’s Dal Makhani recipe

The lentil dish dal makhani, this version from Rasika West End. Vineeta Anand cooked her version during the snow day on Saturday. (Photo by Lavanya Ramanathan.)

Vineeta Anand, a financial researcher for the AFL-CIO, spend the snow day Saturday cooking the following dish, from her native India, where she was snowbound three months of the year.

From Vineeta’s Kitchen:
Dal Makhani or (Lentils in Butter)

This is a wonderfully rich lentil curry from Punjab. What makes it rich, and distinguishes it from its more pedestrian version of “Manh ki dal” (or mother’s dal) is a tomato puree in butter. It is typically served at weddings, festivities and other special occasions. The warming spices of ginger, turmeric and garam masala make this an ideal dish for winter. Serve over fragrant basmati rice. If you want to make it festive, serve it with a side dish of cauliflower, baingan ka bharta (roasted and mashed eggplant), palak paneer (spinach with cubes of farmer’s cheese) or fried okra.

Serves eight

Ingredients:

For the dal

  • 2 Cups Sabut Urad dal. This is a black dal available at most organic grocery stores, Latino supermarkets, at health food stores such as MOM’s and most grocery stores. I shop at the Ginger and Spice Indian grocery store on Little River Turnpike and Braddock Road.
  • 6 cups water (or substitute 1 cup of home-made vegetarian broth for 1 cup of water
  • 2-4 cloves whole garlic
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon freshly chopped turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric powder
  • A pinch of asafetida or” hing” (optional)

For the tomato puree:

  • 2 cans of 16 oz chopped tomatoes or 8 large tomatoes, pureed in a blender
  • 4 sticks butter (or a vegan alternative)
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon Roasted and ground cumin
  • 1 tablespoon garam masala (a mixture of spices available at all Indian grocery stores and health food stores, or you can make your own)
  • A pinch of red chilli powder to taste
  • You can also add 1 tsp sugar if you like, although I skip it

Garnish:

  • A handful of fresh chopped cilantro, and a dollop of yoghurt (you can skip the yoghurt if you’re vegan)

Method:
Wash the lentils thoroughly. Soak overnight, then rinse and drain the water the dal was soaked in.

In a pressure cooker, put 2 cups of the washed dal, 4 cups water. If you want to make it richer, add 1 cup of vegetable broth instead of water. Add the whole garlic as well as the peeled, washed and finely chopped fresh ginger. Also, the fresh turmeric and turmeric powder and a pinch of organic hing (asafoetida). Pure hing is very expensive and difficult to find, so it’s often adulterated with wheat. If you’re allergic to gluten, skip the hing.

When the pressure-cooker whistles, turn the heat down all the way to low. Pressure cook for 10 minutes on low. Turn the heat off. Do not open the pressure cooker until it cools.

If you do not have a pressure cooker, you can make the dal in a heavy steel or cast iron pot until the lentils are soft (probably 20-30 minutes or more).

For the tomato puree:
In a steel pan, cook the tomato puree with all the spices until the butter or butter alternative separates. Pour the puree into the dal, and cook until it boils a couple of times, stirring all the time so it doesn’t stick. When serving, add a few dollops of mixed yoghurt, or if you a vegan skip this step. Garnish with fresh chopped cilantro.

The dal always tastes best when it is cooked one or two days before it is served. It is a popular dish at truck stops that cook it over a very low heat for 24 hours or longer. I usually make extra tomato puree and keep a few jars in the freezer.

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