Dal Makhani

There are some cuisines that come naturally to me. Indian food (and I realize there is a whole world of nuanced cuisines under that umbrella) eludes me, mostly because it feels special and otherworldly to me. The Indian food that I’ve enjoyed over the years is vibrant and rich, something I’d never in a million years expect to turn out of my kitchen with these hands.

When Chef Keith Sarisin sent me his dal makhani recipe, I was up for the challenge but still completely intimidated. In the words of Keith, “to master the cuisine would take lifetimes but to fall in love with it, takes only one bite.” Ok, so there was my free pass if I royally screwed up.

I was pleasantly surprised by the limited number of items I had to buy that wasn’t already in my pantry. To be fair, I do have an insane spice collection. I ended up needing to buy the urad dal because lentils aren’t typically in my everyday diet and the garam masala. I already had ghee when I was on my fad keto kick a while back and was surprised that I used a lot of the other ingredients for other purposes.. like the cumin seeds and cinnamon sticks. Ok, less intimated all of a sudden.

For the dal

  • 1.5 cups whole urad dal
  • 4 Tbsp garlic, minced
  • 3 Tbsp ginger, minced
  • 1 cup tomato, blended
  • 1 tsp red chili powder
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream, room temperature
  • 5 Tbsp ghee
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 dried Kashmiri chilies
  • Salt to taste

  1. Soak the dal for 6-8 hours. Drain and either pressure cook with 4 cups of water for 23-25 minutes, or boil in 4 cups of water for 3 hours. Dal is cooked when you can squeeze a grain between two fingers without resistance.
  2. In a separate pot, heat 3 Tbsp of ghee. On a medium flame, cook the ginger and garlic until it begins to turn color.
  3. Add the blended tomato and salt and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the cooked dal with the water it was boiled in, the chili powder, garam masala, and melted butter. Add more water to cover the dal by 3 cm above the dal. Cook on high heat for 15 minutes, stirring constantly. Lower the heat to a gentle simmer for a minimum of 60 minutes. The longer you let this simmer (restaurants do this overnight), the better the flavor and creamier the texture.
  5. Add the cream to the dal and simmer a final 15 minutes.
  6. In a separate pan, heat the remaining 2 Tbsp of ghee. Once hot, sputter cumin seeds and dried Kashmiri chilies for a minute and pour over the dal. Serve hot with rice and pickled onions. (I omitted this step, but still turned out great!)

For the rice

  • 1.5 cups basmati rice
  • 2 Tbsp ghee
  • 1 (2 inch) piece cinnamon stick
  • 1 tablespoon cumin seed
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • 2.5 cups water
  • 1 small shallot, minced
  • Cilantro, optional for garnish
  1. Place rice into a bowl with enough water to cover. Set aside to soak for 20 minutes.
  2. Heat the ghee in a large pot or saucepan over medium heat. Add the cinnamon stick and cumin seed. Cook and stir for about a minute, then add the shallot to the pot. Saute the shallot until a rich golden brown. Drain the water from the rice, and stir into the pot. Cook and stir the rice for a few minutes, until lightly toasted. Add salt, bay leaf, and water to the pot, and bring to a boil. Cover, and reduce heat to low. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until all of the water has been absorbed. Let stand for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork before serving.

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