I saw the recipe for Dhal Makhani on Andrea’s lovely blog ‘Can You Stay for Dinner’, and immediately knew I had to make it. It’s been far too long since I made Indian food, and this recipe was too easy to be true. Plus, it would use up some of the lentils that have been kicking around in my pantry–my husband is on a ‘clean out the pantry’ mission and has been requiring me to make recipes that use what we already have. A wise choice, since there is still no ice cream space in our freezer.
If you have never made Indian food before, this is a perfect place to start. There are practically no ingredients (OK, well, there are nine of them counting the water), and the ingredients that are in it are totally basic items: ginger, garlic, cayenne–nothing that will require a special trip to an international grocery store. Basically, Dhal Makhani = the most amazing lentils I’ve ever tasted. And I’ve made a lot of lentils in my day.
Which brings us to the question–what the heck is a lentil?
I realized with shock while drafting this post that I had no idea. Was it a pea? Or a bean? Does it qualify as a vegetable? Wikipedia tells me it is a legume, in the same family as peas and beans and peanuts and chickpeas and tofu (soy beans) and (wait for it) it is a fruit. Whaaaa . . . ?
Let’s not get caught up in technicalities here–it’s incredible and wonderful in every way.
I made very few changes to the original recipe, and it is so delicious. It has very few ingredients, but the depth of flavor that emerges when they are brought together into this vegetarian harmony is just amazing. Even though the cook time is 1 hour and 20 minutes, the prep time is virtually nonexistent, so it’s still the perfect dinner for a busy weeknight . . . as long as you can control your hunger pangs for a little longer than usual.
1 cup dried lentils
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons butter
water (up to one cup)
3 tablespoons heavy cream
fresh cilantro for garnish
OK, first let’s grab our lentils. I used Dupuy lentils, which are French and dark green and tiny. But any kind of lentil would work.
Now, put the cup of lentils into a pot. Cover them in cold water by 2 inches, then slap that baby on the stove over high heat.
Bring it to a boil, decrease the heat to medium high, cover the pot, and cook for 20 minutes.
While it’s cooking, prep your other ingredients: open your can of tomato sauce, mince the garlic, grate the ginger, measure out the cayenne, and grab that butter.
After 20 minutes the lentils should be a little softer, but not mushy. Drain them in the sink . . .
. . . and then return them to the pot with the ingredients you just prepped.
Mix that deliciousness in.
Cover the pot and turn the heat on low. Cook for an hour, stirring occasionally and adding water (up to a cup) when needed. If you don’t stir them, your lentils will probably burn to the bottom (that could also mean your heat is too high)–I stirred them 3 or 4 times throughout, and added the full cup of water.
At the end of an hour they will look something like this:
Now it’s time to taste and adjust the seasoning, with more cayenne for those of you who like a jolt of fire on your tongue.
The next step is very important. Grab your best friend:
That’s right–we’re BFF’s and not ashamed of it!
Stir in the cream and sigh at the delights to come. While you’re at it, add a serious handful of chopped cilantro.
Serve it over rice.
So satisfying! So hearty! So flavorful!
Seriously guys, the ratio of ingredients (few) to flavor (lots) is so surprising. Plus, it’s eating on the cheap–lentils and tomato sauce are grocery-budget friendly, which is great news for us grocery budget transgressors.
So pretty–the red, the yellow, the green . . .
Just because my life has been a barren wasteland because of the lack of Dhal Makhani up to this point doesn’t mean yours has to be. Learn from the mistakes of your forefathers! Make this dish!
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