Thursday, January 10, 2008

Daal Makhani

Thurs 3 Jan 2008

Any regular readers will know that one of my favourite things to eat is dall makhni at Shabab on Eastgate. You don't see it on many menus, and you'll probably see even fewer recipes for it. We also had a bit of difficulty tracking down the black lentils with which it's made. Andy asked around his work mates and managed to get hold of a kilo in time for Christmas (and yes, they were wrapped and put under the tree!).

Fortunately, we were set on the recipe front! The lovely Curry had a recipe in its Delhi & Punjab section. The big question was ... would it live up to expectation?

Like about a million (literally) other people around the UK I was recovering from the norovirus, so Andy was sent into the kitchen. Fortunately, he does a far better job at following recipes than me, so after quizzing him (and eating the finished product) I'm qualified to write the dish up!

Firstly, you do need a little planning, as you'll need to soak 250g of black lentils overnight. Ours ended up soaking for two nights with no discernible damage done.

When you come to cook, drain and rinse the lentils and then add to a saucepan with 1.5L of water and bring to the boil. Simmer for around an hour, so that the lentils are cooked but not falling apart. Our simmering was very mucky - there was a lot of skimming that went on and in the end we actually rinsed the lentils again after they were cooked! It might have been thanks to the extra soaking, but it took less than an hour of simmering. If you eat enough lentils you'll know when they're done. They need to give but still hold their shape, and they should be more creamy in texture than floury.

Once you've done any rinsing or skimming you want/need to do, add ginger and garlic pastes (or crushed ginger and garlic) to taste, along with salt and red chilli powder. This type of dahl tends to be quite spicy so be generous. Reduce the heat and add 2tbsp of tomato paste and a whopping 150g of slightly salted butter. Cook for another 15 minutes, stirring frequently to ensure that the mix doesn't split.

Finally, stir in 1 tsp ground garam masala, 1/2 tsp of ground fenugreek leaves and 1/2 tsp of sugar. Check the seasoning and finish with 4 tbsp of cream.
We ate ours with some naan breads. The lentils keep their shape well and the mix does not collapse like some other dahls are prone to do. What was most impressive was how well the dahl reheated - either in the microwave or on the stove the lentils kept their shape and the rich, creamy mix ensured everything stayed moist and not floury or dry at all.

While this isn't quite like Shabab's it is a very good dahl recipe. The book indicates that these measurements will serve four - we had 3 dinners and 2 lunches out of it. I guess it all depends on how greedy you are!

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