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Dal Makhani


It began as a dream, then an excitement and finally a relief. It took a few weeks before it finally arrived. It took us a few months before we digested it as a fact. And then every step was filled with exhilaration, every corner with endless possibilities and ideas, and every glance was accompanied by Indian head shakes (yes, no, no, yes, and then arguments 😉 ).

After having moved around for most of my adult life, for over an decade now, finally it was time to hold ground. Bangalore. Chicago. Matawan. Billerica. Santa Clara. For all those years, all the cities and towns I lived, became my home. However, tiny the 680 sqft studio was but it was mine. The fun, masti, chores, decor, roommates, all belonged to me in that little space. It was my address. Over the years, every place became a milestone to the next. Every rental an inspiring, hand holding and a comforting abode. From crying into the pillows on the days when I received a C grade to hugging and insanely shrieking into the walls when I passed an interview. To dancing and stomping unmindful of disturbing the neighbors next door, when our wedding date was finalized. To decorating the walls with extending family pictures from our Reception to praying intently in my little pooja room on days of self assessment, it has been a journey. A tremendous journey so far with all those memories of friends, acquaintances, belongings, favorite hangouts, cafes and streets. With every apartment, I left behind, I packed a few boxes of carry-ons and discarded the rest. At this point, you will believe me if I say I am a hoarder (I still have that Boroline antiseptic manufactured in 2007..sshh).

From Silicon Valley of India to THE Silicon Valley, we finally reached home, our (for my is belated and cannot be justified anymore) permanent home. Yes, our house keys arrived, a house that we can call a home for years to come. With summer in our hearts and on the trees, we moved-in with our right foot forward.

What I am going to say next is neither a complain nor an exaggeration. It is an expression, a way to vent and share my overwhelmed feeling since my subconscious kicks and questions me every morning when I wake up and look around. I truly understand that this change was bound to be a lengthy, time consuming and elaborate process but at times, I just cannot hear myself or others. Just plain guilt and feeling of incompetence keep me surrounded, nevertheless.

So, what began as a dream, soon became a reality in early June. A reality of daunting and exhausting task of unpacking, segregating, arranging and settling-in lay ahead of us (I would strongly like to replace this with me). Even though it is two of us, only a few times, our disciplined minds get to work and help us weed through our boxes and bags. And then as we are engineers, we are only accustomed to repeated tasks so unfortunately our creative sides are slow to tickle. And if at all any ideas sparkle, they generally end in arguments and eventually leads to woman’s creativity vs man’s practicality war :P.. ( I know at this point you may be thinking of battles at your own home front 😉 )

Well, as you may be familiar with above scenarios, I will spare you the rest of the heat but leave you with this to beat..

I stand and stare and look at it twice,
the design, the color and then check its price
Hmm, I get the item home, and fit it in the hole,
take the liners out and let them roll

Baskets, books, show pieces and artifacts,
Put them all on the shelves until they fit intact
Boxed pots and pans sit on the counter
Ceramic, glass, plastic is what next I encounter

And then comes the bed; sheets, covers, and shams,
To choose solid or patterned, gives me qualms
Left with new curtains, sheer and panel
While I hang it on the rod, I chip my enamel

Oh, how can I miss the patio,
Tall french doors and cemented floor
Here comes the Gods, the problem solver,
But Vastu says find a north east corner

Exhausted and lost, I look around
Unpacked and scoured until I had it found
Finally a notebook and pen, is what I gained
And then I wrote and pledged never to move again!!

Hopefully, now this pledge of mine is hear to stay. Even though I cannot really do much about my home decor skills at the moment but allow time and creativity to take its due course. What I finally decided I could do was to treat ourselves to a lavish meal after our move-in and reduce my guilt a bit and have some truce in my living room. After all, happiness routes itself through stomach 😉 Sharing one of the favorite maa ki daal or daal makhani recipe from my mom. Oh, those wonderful after school days of naan and daal and alooo dum. Nevermind will leave that story for another day. For now, Bon Appetit!

Black gram and chickpea lentils and red kidney beans


Spices for the dal

Chop tomatoes, onions, ginger and chillies

Grind the tomatoes, onion, ginger and chillies into a smooth paste

Boil the lentils in the paste of tomato to get a rich and thick dal makhani

  • Cooking Time: 45 min
  • Recipe Level:  Medium
  • Serves 4-5
  • Source: Mom
  • Cuisine: Indian
  • 1 cup urad dal aka black gram
  • 1/3 cup rajma aka red kidney beans
  • 2 tbsp of chana dal
  • 2 tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion (optional)
  • 2 green chillies
  • small chunk of raw ginger
  • 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
  • Pinch of hing aka asafoetida
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1-2 tsp red chilli powder
  • 1 tsp of coriander powder
  • 1.5 tsp of garam masala powder
  • 1-2 tsp salt or per taste
  • 1/2 tsp of squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/3 cup milk
  • 1.5 cups of water
  • 1/8 cup of butter stick
  • Soak all the lentils – black gram and chana dal and kidney beans in a large bowl overnight or at least for around 7-8 hours.
  • After soaking water, the lentils and bean will swell up. Remove water from the mix and pour the contents of the bowl in a pressure cooker.
  • Now add 1 cup of fresh water in the cooker along with the contents. Add turmeric to the mix and let it pressure cook on medium flame. Allow up to 3 whistles before turning off the gas.
  • Allow the cooker to cool down before removing its contents in a large bowl.
  • On the side, chop the fresh tomatoes and onion in small parts and place it a small grinder. Add green chillies and chunk of ginger to the grinder.
  • Grind the above ingredients to a semi-smooth paste.
  • After the cooker has been cooled and contents of cooker has been transferred to a large bowl, turn on gas. In the same cooker, add half of the measure of butter mentioned. Add cumin seeds, pinch of asafoetida, red chilli and coriander powder.
  • Now add the pureed tomato paste to the cooker and allow it to simmer until the oil leave the sides of the paste.
  • Now pour the boiled lentils and beans in the cooker. Add milk to the contents. Followed by garam masala and salt. Mix well.
  • Now allow it to pressure cook until 1 whistle sounds. Then immediately turn off the gas.
  • When the cooker cools down, mix the dal well as it thickens. Garnish with cilantro leaves and or dollop of butter or sour cream. Add couple of drops of lemon just before serving. Serve warm.

Serve dal with a side of nan or plain phulka.


Mad Notes:
  • As a rule of thumb, lentils need 45 min to 1 hour of soaking time. Legumes such as beans need 6-8 hours of soaking. In our case above, soaking lentils and beans overnight helps in even cooking. If you don’t have that much time, ensure beans are soaked for at least 5 hours. You may need more cooker whistles to soften the bean, though.
  • Add minimum amount of required water for boiling the lentils and beans in the first round. Just enough to soften them up.
  • You may choose to match a bit of dal and beans after pressure cooking to get a finer texture of the dal. I chose not to mine as I like to get big chunks of beans in my dal while eating.
  • Adding milk to the dal helps to obtain that rich dark brown color.
  • Urad dal thickens over a period of time. Don’t over heat or over cook dal in the second round of cooking under pressure.