Recently I had invited fellow foodie friends for an Indian themed Dinner. While I was pondering over the menu, one of them mentioned that he is not fond of dal because it is ‘bland’. In essence he is quite correct as the dals which is served in Indian Restaurants in the United States are diluted, watered down version having no resemblance to the tasty variations you see in homes and restaurants in India. That conversation inspired me to create a series for food which is ‘spicy’ meaning flavored well with seasonings. It doesn’t have to burn your lips and numb your palate, rather tantalize your senses.
As the title suggest, Dal Maharani is the quintessential celebratory lentil for Northern India. Its silky consistency, tangy flavors, and concentrated richness is unequaled in any Indian bean or lentil dish. It only seemed apt to share my version of Dal Maharani to launch my new series #SpicyChat.
Daal Makhni, Maa ki Daal, and Dal Maharani are few of the names for this quintessential lentil/bean stew in Northern India. Traditionally Dal Maharani is cooked overnight in a pot over charcoal to ensure its creamy consistency. With years of practice and countless permutations I have managed to create a version of Dal Maharani which simulates the creamy texture most commonly associated with Dal Maharani.
Since it is such a time-consuming affair and nearly impossible to recreate the silky texture, Northern Indians leave it up to the local restaurants to create this wonderfully aromatic and spicy dal. I too have my personal favorite restaurant I religiously visit just to eat Daal Maharani and Butter Naan, fresh off the tandoor. Oh my, I am already drooling!!
Dal Maharani can be as spicy as you wish or you can tweak with the tempering to create a milder version. This recipe is unique, as I have added spices at different cooking times which ensures complexity of spiced flavors rather than the single burn associated with hot dishes. I would be bold enough to call it the Best Vegetarian Stew/Chili you would have tasted!!
The creamiest, silky, tangy, and sweetly spicy lentil/bean vegetarian stew. All you need is freshly baked choice of bread and a bowl.
1 Cup Urad (Black Whole) Dal
½ Cup Red Kidney Beans
1 Onion, finely chopped
2 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
1 Cinnamon Stick
2 Black Cardamom
Salt to Taste
2 Tbs Tomato Paste or 1 Tomato Pureed
4-6 dry red chili
3-4 cups of milk
Tempering: Clarified Butter, 2 garlic chopped, 1 tsp red chili powder
Garnish: unsalted butter
Soak the beans and lentils overnight in plenty of water. Drain next day.
Add beans, lentils, onion, cinnamon, black cardamom to a pressure cooker with 6 cups of water. Once the whistle blows, cook on low heat for another 10 minutes.
Once the steam has evaporated, open the pressure cooker and mash the dal into a creamy texture.
In a heavy-set bowl, warm 2 tbsp of clarified butter. Add dry red chili, tomato, and garlic. Saute for a few minutes.
Add mashed dal and 1 cup of milk to the tomato mixture. Bring to boil and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Repeat the process of adding milk and cooking for 30 minutes each time on low heat, about 2-2.5 hours.
Check for salt.
To serve: Warm 2 tbs of clarified butter, saute garlic till lightly colored, add red chili powder and quickly stir the tempering into the dal. Add a generous dollop of unsalted butter and serve hot.
All the ingredients should be available in your local grocery store.
To recreate the creaminess of the Maharani Dal, I have added milk and cooked it over time. Traditionally this dal is garnished with fresh cream. Since, I am not a fan of diluting the flavors, I simply add a spicy tempering and butter.
Note: There are no shortcuts to this recipe. To achieve the right consistency, this dal has to be cooked over a slow flame for a long period of time.
It was the natural choice for me to launch my #SpicyChat Series with the unique flavors and textures that Indian cuisine has to offer. Any spicy dish should have the perfect balance of heat and texture. Food should be light but intense, rich but refreshing, and above all, balanced.
Everyone is welcome to join #SpicyChat on Twitter and FB. Do you have a spicy dish you are addicted to and crave? I would love to hear from you! And I welcome all guest bloggers and recipe suggestions to bring some spice back into our lives. Happy #SpicyChat!