Dal makhani is an extremely popular North Indian vegetarian curry dish of lentils and beans in a spicy and creamy sauce. It's often made for special occasions, and is also sometimes called the Queen of All Dals.
1-inchpiece fresh gingerpeeled and roughly chopped
3cups plus 2 tablespoonswater
1tablespoonvegetable oil or ghee
1medium onionfinely chopped
1teaspooncumin seeds or ground cumin
½teaspoonIndian red chili powder
1cupcanned tomato sauce(tomato puree)
Soak both the dals (urad dal and kidney beans) in plenty of cold water for 8 hours or overnight. Rinse well and drain.
Soak the dry red chilies in hot water for 15 minutes and then drain well. Add the reconstituted chilies, ginger, garlic, and 2 tablespoons water to a small food processor and puree until it forms a smooth paste. (Add a little extra water if needed to get the mixture moving).
To a medium-large pot add the soaked dals, the remaining 3 cups water, half of the ginger-garlic-chili paste, and the ground turmeric. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and simmer covered for 35 to 45 minutes until the dal is tender. Mash it a little with the back of a spoon, and set aside.
Meanwhile during the last 15 or so minutes of the dal cooking, heat the oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan or skillet. Add the onions and sauté until they start browning, about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the remaining ginger-garlic-chili paste and sauté for another minute. Then add the ground coriander, garam masala, cumin, and chili powder, stirring for a few seconds. Then add the tomato sauce and butter, and cook until the butter melts and the sauce becomes incredibly fragrant, a few minutes more.
Immediately add this mixture to the pot with the dal and its liquid. Season with salt (but not too much as it will reduce) and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer uncovered for another 15 to 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture thickens and the flavors infuse. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir in the heavy cream, if desired, and cook for another 3 minutes. Serve hot with any Indian bread or rice.
Store leftover dal makhani in a sealed container in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days. Reheat on the stovetop in a pan or in the microwave in a microwave safe dish. If the consistency thickens during refrigeration, you may thin it out with a little water if desired. For longer storage, you may freeze it in a freezer-safe container for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the fridge before reheating.
If you need to use canned (cooked) kidney beans, drain and rinse the beans well, and plan to use about 3 times as much (around 6 tablespoons cooked beans). Add cooked kidney beans at the same time you add the tomato-spice mixture to the cooked ural dal. Then proceed as directed.
I use dried Indian red chilies and Indian chili powder (listed as medium-hot spice) that I purchased at Kalustyan's Indian grocery store in New York City. You can find these ingredients in well stocked international markets or online as well. In a pinch, use cayenne pepper powder as a substitute, though spice levels may vary.
I like to use canned tomato sauce (or tomato puree) for this recipe as it's always consistent, readily available, and easy to use. You could use homemade pureed tomatoes, but they will likely be quite watery. In this case you may need to cook them down more. You may also add a little tomato paste to thicken them up in that case.