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It’s entirely possible that Dal Makhani is the most perfect food in the world.
For $9, you can make 15 servings. It’s a complete protein, it keeps well for days in the fridge and it’s delicious. Not to mention completely free of animal products and variable enough that you won’t get tired of it after a batch or two. And you can make enough for a crowd in 27 minutes, plus soaking time…
Here’s my evolved, detailed recipe for dal. If you don’t have an InstantPot, you should buy one, as it will pay for itself in a week.
Dal is made from lentils. By all means, feel free to start with Masoor lentils, otherwise known as ‘football’ lentils. They’re a lovely shade of soft red, and they’re super easy to cook, you really can’t go wrong.
At some point, move up to beluga lentils, which are black and look like caviar. They require an extra step (outlined below), but it’s not that hard. Dal Makhani is the king of dal, which might make it the king of all foods.
[Update: I also now add 3/4 cup of red kidney beans, soaked overnight.]
All the measurements below are approximate, not because I’m too lazy to measure, but because you should vary all of it to taste.
Step 1: Soak 2 cups of Masoor lentils in a big pot of water for two to six hours. Drain. (See update above).
(If using black lentils, insert step 1a: Pour the drained and soaked lentils into a big pot of boiling water for fifteen minutes, skimming off any crud from the top of the pot). Then drain immediately before step 6.
Step 2: Make a garam masala in your blender. Be sure the blender is dry. For the masala:
1 TB black mustard seeds (the most important, unskippable seeds are the mustard, the coriander and the cumin.)
1 TB coriander seeds
1 TB cumin seeds
1 tsp black peppercorns
3 pods of black cardomon
1 inch of real (soft) mexican cinnamon
1 pinch of turmeric
2 or 3 or 6 dried chili peppers, up to you
Obliterate the spices in the blender until it’s practically a powder. Pour into a small bowl.
Using the same blender bowl, add 3 cloves of garlic and a two inch long hunk of ginger along with a cup of water. Blend again. Move to another small bowl. (here’s one optional ingredient that you can only get at an Indian grocery: fresh ‘curry‘ leaves. If you can get them, tear five of them to little bits and add to the ginger/garlic bowl. I don’t think the dried ones are worth it).
Step 3: Put the Instant Pot on “Saute”. Put 2 TB coconut oil or even better, Nutiva coconut oil with vegan butter flavor so it’s like ghee. If you’re not a vegan, you can use 2 TB ghee instead. Wait until it melts.
Step 4: add the garam masala to the melted oil/ghee. It’ll sizzle. Stir it for one minute.
Step 5: add the garlic and ginger. Stir for thirty seconds.
Step 5: add a big can of cheap tomato puree. 28 oz. Stir.
Step 6: add an empty tomato can’s worth of water. Stir.
Step 7: drain the lentils and add. Stir.
Step 8: turn off the Instant Pot and reset it for ‘Beans’. Change the time down to 21 minutes. Lock the lid. (If using the kidney beans as well, up the time to 26 minutes.)
That’s it. You’re done. When the timer goes off, release it.
Please serve hot. Reheats many times. Freezes well. You can top it with more ghee or (yikes) cilantro, or with more spice or with yogurt. And definitely, truly, add some tamarind pulp. That’s key.
UPDATE, thanks to Lenny, Shalva and the family:
One thing that’s worth adding at the end is tamarind pulp. Buy it at the same market as the other stuff.
I don’t use onions because I don’t like onions. And I hate cilantro. Sorry, but it’s true.