Makhani means “buttery” in Hindi and, for vegetarians, this dal dish is the closest thing to the seduction of butter chicken… all those soothing, creamy and rich flavors minus the meat. This is our family’s Friday night supper, with a side of raita and a stack of parathas for sopping up every drop of sauce.
- Black Gram (urad) 1 1/2 cups), washed and soaked overnight
- Red Kidney Beans 1/2 cup, washed and soaked overnight
- Salt 1 Tbs
- Butter 1/4 cup (1/2 stick), plus extra for garnish
- Green Cardamom Pods 8
- Black Cardamom Pods 3
- Cloves 5
- Indian Bay Leaves 4
- Indian or Thai Green Chiles 3, finely chopped
- Cinnamon Stick 1
- Ginger-Garlic Paste 3 Tbs
- Onions 2, coarsely chopped
- Kashmiri Chili Powder 2 Tbs
- Red Chili Powder 1 tsp
- Tomatoes 4 large, pureed (3 cups)
- Ground Cumin 1/2 tsp
- Whipping Cream (35%) 1 cup
- Dried Fenugreek Leaves (kasuri methi) 1 Tbs
- Chopped Cilantro 1/4 cup
- Drain and rinse the soaked beans, then add them to a large saucepan. Add salt and enough cold water to cover by an inch. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour, or until beans are very soft. If necessary, top up with more water.
- Heat butter in a heavy-bottomed frying pan or wok over medium heat until sizzling. Add cardamom, cloves, bay leaves, chiles, cinnamon, and ginger-garlic paste. Roast for 2 minutes, or until fragrant and softened. Add onions and sauté for 3–4 minutes, until onions are brown. Add chili powders and cook for 1 minute, until the smell of raw spice disappears.
- Pour in tomato purée and simmer for 2–3 minutes, until the oil from the spices rises to the surface. Add the cooked beans along with their cooking water and 1/2 cup hot water. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes. Add cumin and cream and simmer for another 5 minutes.
- Garnish with fenugreek leaves and cilantro, and serve with parathas and raita.
Considered one of the Punjab’s most beloved dishes, the keys to a great dal makhani are to never skimp on the butter or cream and to cook it low and slow — in fact, the more it simmers, the more fabulous the flavor. If you have time, and to really make the most of this dish, after adding the cumin and cream, simmer for another 30 minutes to 1 hour on low heat, stirring occasionally and adding more glugs of cream and butter. To serve, garnish with fenugreek and cilantro and add another dollop of butter to melt slowly in the heat.
Excerpted from My Thali: A Simple Indian Kitchen by Joe Thottungal with Anne DesBrisay. Photography by Christian Lalonde. Copyright © 2023 by Thali Restaurant. Excerpted with permission from Figure 1 Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.