Oil – What kind of cooking oil do you use?

Oil1
What kind of cooking oil do you use? This is a question that I’m asked all the time. Several years ago in India, the oil you used in your kitchen depended on where you came from. Coconut oil was used in Kerala and sesame oil in Andhra and Rajasthan. In the East and North mustard oil was most common and in Central India and Gujarat it was peanut oil.

Then, in the 80’s, all that changed when people became more aware of heart disease and high cholesterol. Today, the debate on the healthiest oil continues in the news and on popular shows like the Dr. Oz show. Grocery shelves are stocked with whatever the latest trends may be.

If you ask me, the right type of oil to use depends on the cooking method and the dish you’re going to prepare. I have a few different types of oils in my kitchen. When I am ready to cook, I select an oil with a low smoke point or high smoke point. I also take into consideration who I am cooking for and whether they have any food allergies.

What does low smoke point and high smoke point mean? Every oil or fat has its own smoke point – the temperature at which it starts to burn and produce potentially harmful chemicals. When oil or fat is heated it changes texture, color, taste as well as it’s nutritional properties. When it reaches its smoking point a lot of the nutrients are destroyed and it can sometimes form harmful compounds. So, matching the right type of oil to your cooking method is key.

I use cooking oil with a high smoke point to deep fry, stir fry, temper (season), and grill. Some of the oils I use for this purpose are peanut oil, sesame oil, and ghee. For my everyday cooking I use grapeseed oil (my new favorite), coconut oil, refined canola oil, and ghee. I use extra virgin olive oil for dips, dressings and marinades. I use butter, coconut oil, and canola oil for baking. I don’t keep all these oils on my kitchen shelves all the time because oils can get rancid. But I like to rotate having four or five of them in my kitchen. It’s nice to be able to use different oils in my cooking. For example, olive oil for my breakfasts, pastas and salads, peanut oil for deep frying, sesame oil for Asian food, and grapeseed oil for Indian food. If you are uncertain of an oil’s smoke point, look at the label on the bottle. Most bottles will give you the correct temperature.

A note on reusing oil: When oil is overheated repeatedly it can break down and become carcinogenic. So, using the same oil that you’ve used for deep frying over and over again can be dangerous.

Don’t go out there and buy cooking oil just because you heard that a certain oil is the best. Remember it all comes down to heat. Choose the right type of oil for the method you use to cook your every day dishes. You may use this Wikipedia guide that lists the various oil types and their smoke points.

Tadka Dal – Tempered Red Lentils

Tadka Dal2Madhur Jaffrey says in her book Ultimate Curry Bible, “you can take meat, fish and vegetables away from an Indian, but you cannot take away his dal – the core of his meal.” Dal, in Hindi, means lentils, but the word is used for the soupy dish that you will find in the poorest as well as the richest homes in India. Every home has its own way of preparing dal. To complicate matters, there are at least 60 different kinds of dals. I learned how to cook dal (red lentils) from my mother-in-law and how to temper dal from my own mother. Cooking dal that is flavorful and creamy is an art. Let me explain.

I’ve learned from my mistakes that perfect flavor and texture cannot be achieved in a hurry. One of the first things mom-in-law did when she started cooking for the day, was to start preparing dal. A slow-cooking process was vital. She used a heavy bottomed, medium-sized pan, to cook the dal.  Once the dal and water came to a boil, she turned the heat to low and went about her other kitchen chores until the dal was perfectly done. This method produced a rich, silky textured dal.

The tempering or tadka (also called tarka, chaunk, baghaar) part of making dal, I learned from Amma, my mother. Most non-Indian cooks think of tempering as a way of heating and cooling chocolate. In Indian cooking, it’s also the method used at the beginning of the cooking process or at the end of the cooking process, to flavor a dish. The ingredients are usually added in rapid succession to hot oil or ghee. Tempering dal should be done just a few minutes before serving. The aroma of sizzling spices in hot oil is one of the best parts of eating a simple meal of plain rice and dal. For me, tadka dal takes me back to when I was a young girl growing up in Pune. It soothes my spirits, cheers me up, and brings back happy memories.

Tadka Dal – Tempered Red Lentils
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cooking time: 40-50 minutes
Serves: 6

Ingredients:
1 cup red lentils, (masoor dal)
3 cups water (plus more hot water to achieve your preferred consistency)
2 teaspoons finely chopped ginger
2 teaspoons finely chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

Ingredients for tempering (tadka):
2 tablespoons peanut oil, (or ghee)
1/2 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1-2 dry red chillies, (depending on heat and your preference, optional)
a pinch of asafoetida, (optional)
1/2 cup diced shallots, (optional)
5 curry leaves, (optional)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro leaves, (optional)

Directions:
Wash the masoor dal (red lentils) in several changes of water until the water runs clear. Add the dal to a heavy bottomed saucepan and cover with three cups of cold water. Bring to a boil and skim off any scum that rises to the top. Add the ginger, garlic, and turmeric. Turn the heat to low. Cover with the lid, that is slightly ajar, to avoid from boiling over, and simmer gently for about 40-50 minutes. Stir occasionally until the dal is completely broken down. Use a whisk to stir until the dal becomes creamy. Add hot water to bring the dal to the consistency that you like. It can be as thin and soupy or thick and creamy as you desire. Add salt.

Having all the ingredients for the tempering process ready. Heat oil or ghee in a small frying pan over medium-high heat. When it shimmers, add mustard seeds. When the mustard seeds splutter, turn the heat to medium, and add cumin seeds, dry red chillies, and asafoetida. Fry for 15 seconds and then add the chopped shallots. Stir and cook until the shallots turn golden. Add curry leaves and fry for 20 seconds. Pour this over the dal. Add chopped cilantro as garnish. Cover with lid and let the dal stand for a few minutes. Serve with plain rice or rotis.

Quinoa Salad

Quinoa, Cucumber and Cherry Tomato Salad
I’ve been attending cooking classes at Sur la Table and the first class I attended was called, “Healthy Mediterranean Cooking.” Chef Bradley Curtis was a superb teacher. Not only did he share several easy and healthy dishes, but he taught us good knife skills and introduced us to spices and herbs from around the world. I was excited to learn how to use Moroccan preserved lemons and Northwest African harissa. I could not wait to get home so I could use these two ingredients in my recipes, and this salad was my first creation.

I used quinoa because it is an excellent source of iron, phosphorus, fiber, and riboflavin. It is gluten-free and one of only a few plant foods that are considered a complete protein. Doctors and nutritionists call it a “super grain.” A natural soap-like substance, that is bitter, covers each grain. It is said that the bitter taste deters birds and insects from eating it. So, that also means it is low in pesticides.

Spring is here and it’s a good time to get back on track on eating right. Here’s a salad that’s “super” good!

Quinoa Salad
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 25 Minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 seedless English cucumber, diced
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
¼ cup finely chopped green onions, white parts only
2 tablespoons cilantro, finely chopped
1 tablespoons pumpkin/sunflower seeds, (optional)
1 tablespoons dry cranberries, (optional)
1 tablespoon raisins, (optional)

Directions:
Quinoa has a natural coating, called saponin. If it is not washed, the grains taste bitter or soapy. So, rinse the quinoa well under cold water and drain. It helps to use a fine mesh sieve to do this. Boxed quinoa is often pre-rinsed, but an additional rinse doesn’t hurt. Put the rinsed quinoa into a saucepan and add vegetable broth or water. The quinoa to broth/water ratio is 1:2. Add a little salt if you are not using broth.

Cover and bring to a boil. When it starts boiling, turn the heat to low. The lid should be slightly ajar, to prevent boiling over. Simmer for 20 minutes. It’s just like cooking rice. The grains get a bit transparent when it is cooked, except for a little spiral sprout. Use a fork to fluff it up and then let it cool.

Once the quinoa comes to room temperature, put it into a large bowl. Add cucumber, cherry tomatoes, green onion, and cilantro. Set aside and make the dressing.

Ingredients for dressing:
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon honey
2-3 tablespoons harissa, (depending on heat and your preference)
1 small Moroccan preserved lemon, rind only, rinsed and finely chopped
¼ teaspoon pepper
salt
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds
1 garlic clove, minced

Directions for the dressing:
Whisk lemon juice, honey, harissa, preserved lemon, pepper, and salt in a small non-reactive bowl. Heat olive oil in a small non-stick pan and when it shimmers add cumin seeds and garlic. Stir for 30 seconds and then turn off the heat. Cool and drizzle the seasoned oil into the rest of the ingredients that are in the small bowl. Whisk vigorously.

To finish the salad:
Pour the dressing over the quinoa and vegetables. Toss gently. Cover and let stand at room temperature for one hour. It can also be kept in the refrigerator overnight. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Sprinkle pumpkin seeds, cranberries, and raisins just before you serve.

Note on how to use Moroccan preserved lemon: Remove lemon from the bottle with clean utensils to avoid contaminating the inside of the jar. This way, the remaining contents of the jar will not need to be refrigerated. Rinse the lemon under cold water to remove excess salt. Cut the lemon in quarters. Scoop off the insides. With a sharp knife remove the pith. Dice the lemon rind into small 1/8-inch cubes or finely chop.
Quinoa salad Harissa2

Reposting – Red Kidney Bean Curry (Rajma curry)

Red Kidney Bean Curry3Red Kidney Bean Curry
Prep time: 8 minutes
Cooking time: 25 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
1lb 13 oz (822 grams) red kidney beans
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 bay leaf, (tej patta)
2 black cardamoms
1-inch piece cinnamon
2 cups finely chopped onion
salt
2 tablespoons ginger-garlic paste
2 cups diced tomatoes
3 green chillies, (slit down the center – adjust depending on heat and your preference)
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
½ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder, (depending on heat and your preference)
1 teaspoon crushed red chilli flakes, (depending on heat and your preference)
1 tablespoon coriander powder
2 teaspoons garam masala, (depending on your preference)
3 teaspoons kasori methi, (crushed in your palm)
1 cup warm water
¼ cup finely chopped cilantro
3-4 mint leaves, (torn into bits)

Directions:
Heat a heavy bottomed pot on medium-high heat. Add oil and when it shimmers add the bay leaf, black cardamoms, and cinnamon. After 30 seconds add the chopped onion and salt. Fry until the onion turns light brown. Lower the heat to medium and add the ginger-garlic paste. Fry until the raw smell of ginger-garlic disappears, then add the tomatoes and green chillies. Cook until you see the oil separate from the tomato-onion mixture.

Add cumin seeds, turmeric powder, chilli powder, crushed red chilli flakes, coriander powder, garam masala powder, and kasori methi. Cook for 30 seconds and then add the canned red kidney beans along with the liquid in the can and one cup of warm water. Turn the heat to high and let the beans come to a boil. Once it comes to a boil, turn the heat to low, and let the beans simmer for 15-20 minutes. Garnish with cilantro and mint. Serve with plain steamed rice or rotis.

Khana – Restaurant Review

khana_logoMy son, daughter-in-law, and I recently visited Khana restaurant in Burtonsville, Maryland. The restaurant serves Indian food in a casual and bright ambience. I recommend it for a quick evening dinner or a grab ’n go lunch.

Khana gets high marks for service. As we walked in, we were greeted by none other than one of the owners! The restaurant seems to cater to customers with mild palettes. However, we were offered the option to bump up the spice level. I enjoyed the tandoori dishes which offered a surprisingly pleasant, smoky flavor – reminding me of great tandoors in India.

Khana5The menu itself is as intuitive as a fast food chain. Simply select a kabab, wrap, curry, biryani or salad. Vegetarian and non-vegetarian options are available for each. The restaurant also offers a variety of sliders. Very creative! Most dishes are accompanied by rice, naan, and a salad. The naan was my favorite – so good that I ordered extra! You’ll probably do the same!

Khana’s slogan is “Indian food, simplified.” I think it describes my experience perfectly. I recommend you visit Khana if you’re in the Burtonsville area.

Khana
15616 Columbia Pike
Burtonsville
301-421-1244

www.khanagrille.com
Sunday – Thursday 11 am – 9 pm
Friday   – Saturday  11 am – 10 pm
Prices: $5.99 – $10.99
Other: Wheelchair accessible; lots of parking available

Black Chickpea Curry

Black Chickpea Curry1
The classic combination of puttu, kadala curry (black chickpea curry), and papadam is made for breakfast in most homes in Kerala. When I’m homesick, it’s my comfort food. Unlikely as the combination may sound, it actually works. Check out my post on, “Puttu, Pazham, and Pappadam” to learn how to make puttu.

In Kerala, black chickpea curry accompanies puttu, appam, idiyappam, and dosa. But it can also be served with rice, chapati, and puri. You can make it with or without gravy. Black chickpeas are called kala channa in Hindi.

Using garam masala is key. It adds flavor and spice to this curry. The feedback that I received on the garam masala recipe that I shared with you is excellent. Take the time to make it and use it in my recipes. It’s the best!

Black chickpeas are a good source of protein, low in fat, high in dietary fiber, and rich in vitamins and minerals. So, add them to your diet, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan.

Black Chickpea Curry
Prep Time: 20 minutes + soak the chickpeas overnight (8-9 hours)
Cooking time : 30 minutes
Serves : 4

Ingredients:
1 cup black chickpeas (kala channa/kadala), soaked overnight
1 teaspoon coconut oil
4 tablespoons coriander seeds
2 South Indian dry red chillies (depending on heat and your preference, optional)
½ cup grated coconut
¼ cup diced shallots
2 teaspoons sliced garlic
1 sprig curry leaves
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder, (depending on heat and your preference, optional)

To season the black chickpea curry
3 tablespoons coconut oil
½ teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 sprig curry leaves
2 tablespoons diced shallots

Directions:
Rinse the black chickpeas in several changes of water. Add half teaspoon salt to 2½ cups of water and soak the chickpeas for 8-9 hours or overnight.

Heat one teaspoon oil in a small pan set over medium-low heat. Add coriander seeds and when they begin to turn light brown add the dry red chillies. Roast until coriander turns golden brown. Remove to a small plate. To the same pan add coconut. Roast the coconut, stirring constantly, until the coconut turns golden brown. Off the heat and add quarter cup shallots, two teaspoons garlic, curry leaves, cumin, turmeric, and garam masala. Mix and let it remain on the stove top until it cools. Once all the ingredients that were roasted have cooled, put them into a blender and grind with three tablespoons of water to make a smooth paste.

Add the black chickpeas, along with the water it was soaking in, to a pressure cooker. Add another two cups of fresh water and the ground coconut paste. Stir well. Cover with lid. Bring to full cooking pressure on maximum heat. Reduce heat to medium and cook for eight minutes. Allow the cooker to cool gradually before opening. Please check on the cooking time for your make of pressure cooker.

To season the black chickpea curry, heat three tablespoons of coconut oil in a small pan. Add mustard seeds and when they splutter, add curry leaves and shallots. Keep stirring until the shallots turn golden brown. Add the seasoning to the cooked black chickpea curry. Stir well and serve. If you want a thick gravy, cook the water down on high heat until the gravy thickens and reaches the consistency you desire.

Kale and Red Lentil Soup

Kale SoupMy inspiration for today’s recipe was a spice rack that I got for Christmas. Thank you, Sonia, for this beautiful gift. The 20-jar revolving spice rack has dry herbs and spices that are of the highest quality. I used rosemary and thyme in my soup today. If you don’t own a spice rack, I recommend that you get one. Having spices and herbs at your fingertips is a time saver in the kitchen.

My love for kale is no secret and I’m using it in the soup of the day. Kale has been a very popular vegetable recently. Doctors have named it one of the world’s healthiest foods. Kale has antioxidant-related health benefits, anti-inflammatory health benefits, and cancer-preventive benefits. It also provides cardiovascular support, controls blood glucose levels, improves bone health, and helps lower blood pressure and cholesterol.

I also used red lentils (masoor dal) in the soup. You can find red lentils at your regular grocery store or at the Indian grocery store. I used the split red lentils instead of the whole red lentils, because they cook faster. Take the time and effort to wash the kale well. If the stems on the kale are tough, remove them and use only the leaves. You can use some of the tender stems, but cut them into small pieces.

My family enjoyed this soup a lot and I hope you will too.

Kale and Lentil Soup
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Serves: 4

Ingredients:
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 teaspoons sliced garlic
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ cup split red lentils, (masoor dal)
2 cups water
1 can (14.5 oz 411 g) diced Tomatoes
1 can (15.5 oz 439 g) Goya small red beans
½ teaspoon dried rosemary
½ teaspoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, (optional)
½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
salt
7 cups low-sodium stock, (vegetable or chicken)
4 cups kale
3 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (optional)

Directions:
De-stem the kale by pulling the leaves away from the stem. Wash the leaves and tear (or cut) them into small bite size pieces. If you use the tender stem, cut them into small pieces. Set aside.

Heat olive oil in a large saucepan set over medium heat. Add onion and garlic. Stir and when they turn translucent, add turmeric and lentils. Stir and cook for a minute. Add two cups of water. Bring the water to a boil, then turn the heat to low. Partially cover the saucepan with a lid and let it cook for 20 minutes. The lentils should be well cooked before you add the rest of the ingredients.

Add the tomatoes, red beans, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes, pepper, salt, and vegetable stock. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add the kale, turn the heat to medium-low, and let the soup simmer for ten minutes. Serve in soup bowls and garnish with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ultimate Banana Bread

Banana Bread7
Overripe bananas are never a pretty sight in the kitchen. I’ve used them to make banana bread, banana fritters, banana pancakes, banana muffins, and even an occasional banana flambé. I bet you have your own “banana rescue mission” recipes.

I had six very ripe bananas, the exact number called for in the Cook’s Illustrated recipe, sitting on my counter. We were snowed in, and although the recipe had a few extra steps, I decided to try it. The verdict: I’m tossing out all my other banana bread recipes and keeping this one!

The method used to incorporate more banana flavor into the banana bread, without adding all their moisture, is brilliant. The secret is to use really ripe bananas for this recipe. I didn’t add the thinly shingled banana slices and the extra sugar on top. I loved the cake-like texture and the fact that it didn’t crumble when cut into slices. It was rich, moist, and truly the best banana bread I’ve ever eaten.

Ultimate Banana Bread
(Recipe from Cook’s Illustrated)

Total Time:  1 hr 20 min
Prep time:  20 min
Cook time:  60 min
Yield:  1 loaf (about 12 slices)

Ingredients:
1¾ cups (8¾ ounces) all-purpose flour
½ tsp table salt
1 tsp baking soda
6 large very ripe bananas (about 2¼ pounds), peeled and cut in half
2 large eggs
¾ cup (5¼ ounces) packed light brown sugar
8 tbsps (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and slightly cooled
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped, (optional)
2 tsp granulated sugar

Directions:
Adjust oven rack to middle position and set oven to 350 degrees. Spray 8½ by 4½-inch loaf pan with nonstick cooking spray. Whisk flour, salt, and baking soda together in large bowl.

Place 5 bananas in microwave-safe bowl; cover with plastic wrap and cut several steam vents in plastic with paring knife. Microwave on high power until bananas are soft and have released liquid, about 5 minutes. Transfer bananas to fine-mesh strainer placed over medium bowl and allow to drain, stirring occasionally, about 15 minutes. You should have ½ to ¾ cup liquid.

Transfer liquid to medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until reduced to ¼ cup, about 5 minutes. Remove pan from heat, stir reduced liquid into bananas, and mash with potato masher until fairly smooth. Whisk in eggs, brown sugar, butter, and vanilla.

Pour banana mixture into flour mixture and stir until just combined with some streaks of flour remaining. Gently fold in walnuts. Scrape batter into prepared pan.

Slice remaining banana diagonally into ¼-inch-thick slices. Shingle banana slices on top of either side of loaf, leaving 1½-inch-wide space down center to ensure even rise. Sprinkle granulated sugar evenly over loaf. (I skipped this step.)

Place in the center of the rack. After 30 minutes turn the loaf around and check the bread for color. If it is browning too quickly, cover loosely with aluminum foil. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of loaf comes out clean, 55 to 75 minutes. Cool bread in pan on wire rack 15 minutes, then remove loaf from pan and continue to cool on wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes:
– Use very ripe bananas.
– Do microwave the bananas so they release their liquid.
– Reduce the liquid to a ¼ cup before adding them back into the bananas.
– I skipped putting the sliced banana on top of the banana bread and sprinkling sugar.
– To toast walnuts, heat a large non-stick frying pan over medium high heat. Add walnuts to the hot, dry pan and cook, watching constantly and stirring frequently, until walnuts starts to brown. Using walnuts is optional.
– To store banana bread, wrap the bread tightly in plastic wrap and store at room temperature overnight or in the refrigerator for up to 5 days. It can also be frozen. The wrapped loaf should be put into a resealable freezer bag and it can be kept up to two months.

What is Kashmiri Chilli Powder?

Kashmiri Chilli Powder3
Many of my recipes call for Kashmiri chilli powder.  One of my friends told me that she went looking of Kashmiri chilli powder and could not find it at the India grocery store where she lived. I realized then that it was important for me to talk about some of the ingredients, spices, and equipment that I frequently use in my cooking. So, today I am going to start with the famous Kashmiri chilli powder which (shhh) doesn’t even come from Kashmir!

Kashmiri chilli powder is the name given to a powdered chilli pepper. It is mildly hot, has a distinct flavor, and it adds a bright red color to food. True Kashmiri chillies are in high demand and since there is a short supply in India, substitutes are used to make Kashmiri chilli powder. You can identify dry Kashmiri chillies by their medium size, cone shape, wrinkles, and dark red color. One of the substitutes used is Byadagi chillies. They are grown in the state of Karnataka in India. Byadgi chillies are long, deep red, mildly pungent, and wrinkled. They have more color content than any other chilli in India. It is also nice to know that the least amount of pesticides are used in growing these chillies.

Kashmiri chilli powder is produced by hundreds of Indian spice companies – MDH, Everest, Eastern, Sakthi, Aachi, Swad, Badsha, just to name a few. The Indian grocery store, where I live, sells Kashmiri chilli powder under these names: Kashmiri chilli powder, Kashmiri Mirch. If you cannot find Kashmiri chilli powder, you can use deggi mirch. It is made from a blend of red bell peppers and Kashmiri chillies. It adds color but has a slightly higher heat level than Kashmiri chilli powder. You will find it at Indian grocery stores where it may be sold as deggi mirch, degi mirch, or deghi mirch. Different brands of chilli powder taste different and have different strengths regardless of being labelled hot, extra hot, very hot etc. I tend to use chilli powder by their difference in heat, rather than the name on the box. Yes, I taste the chilli powder before I use it.

I love the brilliant red color, flavor, and mild zing of Kashmiri chilli powder so I use it in most of my recipes. I also have a bottle of hot chilli powder that I use, if I want to bump up the heat level in my dish.  When I list the ingredients in my recipes, right next to chilli you will see in parenthesis, “depending on heat and your preference.” I say this because the type of chilli – fresh green/red chillies, canned chillies, dry red chillies, red chilli powder, or chill flakes – could change the heat from mild to very hot. So, depending on the heat level of the chilli you are using and the amount of chilli you personally prefer, add less or more. Many of you want to know if there is a substitute for Kashmiri chilli powder. In a pinch, use three parts paprika and one part cayenne. But, if you want flavor and color, it’s worth your time and effort to hunt down a box of Kashmiri chilli powder.

Dal Makhani

Dal Makhani1
I was cleaning my kitchen cupboards and noticed that I had over ten different dry lentils and beans on the shelves. Some of them I used often and others only for specific recipes. I was reminded of the classic Punjabi dish, dal makhani, when I saw the black lentils and kidney beans sitting next to each other. Makhani, in Punjabi, means buttery. You will find this dish on the menu of almost every Indian restaurant.

Dhabas, small restaurants found along the highways in North India, serve the best dal makhani.  Black lentils and kidney beans are soaked for eight hours. Then, before the cooks go home for the night, it is place in a large pot over the residual heat of a tandoor (clay oven) and cooked until they return in the morning. It is seasoned lightly and finished with lots of fresh butter and cream. The subtle taste and smooth, velvety texture of dal makhani is absolutely glorious!

A slow cooker would have been the ideal appliance to cook this dish. But since I didn’t have one, I experimented with cooking the dal makhani in a pressure cooking for a long period of time over very low heat.

Dal makhani is not a dish you would eat every day! It is high in calories and loaded with butter and cream. However, you can add as much or as little butter and cream as your conscience will allow. As much as I love dal makhani, it is definitely an occasional indulgence!

Dal Makhani
Prep time: 15 minutes, (does not include time for soaking)
Cook time: 60 minutes
Serve: 4

Ingredients:
1 cup whole black lentils, (urad dal)
2 tablespoon red kidney beans, (rajma)
6 cups water, (3 cups to soak and an additional 3 cups to pressure cook)
1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt, (plus more depending on your preference)
1 cup roughly chopped onion
1 tablespoon roughly chopped ginger
2 cups roughly chopped tomato
2 green chillies, optional
3 tablespoons ghee
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
2 black cardamoms
½ teaspoon cumin seeds
1/8 teaspoon asafoetida powder
¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
1 teaspoons Kashmiri chilli powder
2 teaspoons coriander powder
1 teaspoon garam masala powder
2 teaspoons kasoori methi
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons julienned ginger

Directions:
Wash the who black lentils and red kidney beans four times, changing the water each time. Cover with three cups of water and soak overnight. Put the lentils and kidney beans, along with the water that it was soaked in, into a pressure cooker. Add the baking soda, salt, and three more cups of water. Stir, cover with pressure cooker lid, and add the weight. Bring to full cooking pressure on maximum heat. Then reduce heat to lowest point on your stove. Cook for 35 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure cooker cool gradually before opening.

Use a blender to puree the onion and ginger. Remove into a small bowl and set aside. Put the tomato and chilli into the blender next and puree. Remove into another bowl and set aside.

 Use a potato mashed to gently mash a small portion of the lentils that are in the pressure cooker.

Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add ghee. When it sizzles add bay leaf, cloves, cardamoms, cumin seeds, and onion-ginger puree. Cook, stirring intermittently, for 7-10 minutes or until the raw smell of the ginger disappears. Turn heat to low and add asafoetida, turmeric, chilli, coriander, and garam masala. Immediately add the tomato puree and crushed kasoori methi. Stir well, cover and cook on medium heat for 10 minutes or until the oil separates.

 Add the cooked lentils. Stir well to combine all the ingredients. Add salt to taste, half of the julienned ginger, and butter. Cook for five minutes. Garnish with cilantro, the remaining julienned ginger, and cream. Serve immediately. This dal thickens if you keep it in the refrigerator. So add some water while re-heating. Tastes great with rice, roti, paratha, and naan.