Thursday, February 2, 2012

Lentils and Red Beans in a Creamy Tomato Sauce (Dal Makhani)


2 cups Black Beans
1/2 cup Red Kidney Beans
2 tablespoons Split Bengal Gram Lentils

1/2 onion, chopped
1 green cardamom
2 green chili pepper
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1.5 tablespoons butter or ghee or canola oil
4-5 cups warm water (more or less)
2 cups whole milk (or 3/4 cup cream)
3 cups Makhani Masala  Butter Based Tomato Cream Sauce (without the Cream) 
*you can freeze this sauce as well =D
Makhani Masala is the very aromatic butter based tomato cream sauce seasoned with spices and herbs – the base gravy for most of the tomato based creamy dishes in the Indian restaurants. The word ”makhani” comes form “makhan” which means butter. The origin of this sauce is in the northern regions of India (Punjab). Traditionally fresh butter and cream were used to cook this basic sauce.  If you do not want to indulge the butter/ghee may be replaced with cooking oil
 ( I usually use Canola)

Ingredients: (yields about 3 cups)

1/4 cup ginger paste
3tablespoon garlic paste
2 inch stick of cinnamon
2 black cardamoms
2 small green cardamoms
1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (This is a MUST and I found this at Whole Foods Grocery Store)
1 tablespoon kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves; Available in Indian Groceries or online)
5 cups pureed fresh tomato (or about 1/2 the amount of tomato paste) 
1 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon powder
Salt to taste
3 hot green peppers slit (optional)
1/4 cup melted butter or canola oil or ghee (clarified butter...I found this in Whole Foods Grocery Store)

1/2 cup heavy cream/whipping cream (leave this out with this dish)
1/2 cup milk (leave this out with this dish)


Heat butter/ghee/oil & add cinnamon, cardamoms and fenugreek seeds.
Once the seeds start to sizzle, add ginger garlic paste, salt, chili powder and stir and fry till fat (butter) separates, and starts to form small bubbles.
Add tomato paste, green chili, cinnamon powder and kasuri methi ( dried fenugreek leaves) Mix the tomato paste with double the amount of water to make it like a puree of use Tomato Puree).

Cook/simmer and reduce the tomato sauce, till done. (you will know which the fat/ and the spice mix/masala leaves the sides of the pan and the oil separates and you will definitely smell it!). Make sure to cover the pan as the sauce will bubble and splatter.

(At this stage the sauce can be frozen for later use. If you are cooking anything with the sauce right away, go ahead and add the cream and milk.)

Add heavy cream and milk. Boil/simmer for about 10 minutes.

After the sauce is done, proceed to cook whatever dish you have decided.

The masala/sauce can be frozen in airtight containers for quite a few months. BUT if you want to freeze it, DO NOT add the cream and the milk. Add the cream and the milk when you want to use it to prepare the final dish.


Soak the lentils/beans (black Beans, kidney beans and Split Bengal Gram lentils or called 
 (chana dal) over night. Wash them well and drain.

In a deep, thick bottomed pot/dutch oven heat the butter/oil/ghee. Add the cardamom, cumin seeds and the slit hot green chili peppers. When the seeds sizzle, add the onions and cook at medium heat till they are clear and soft. Add all of the drained lentils/beans, and salt; toss them together with the oil/ghee/butter and the spices and cook for about 5 minutes at medium to high heat.

Stir in the Makhani Masala/butter based tomato cream sauce we made, toss everything together to be well combined; all the lentils/beans should be well coated with this sauce and simmer at medium heat for about 10 minutes while stirring once in a while.

Add the warm water to the pot, stir and cover; simmer at low heat till the beans are tender. This might take a couple of hours. For a quicker version use the pressure cooker to cook as I always do.

After the lentils/beans are tender, mash some of them with the back of a big spoon. Stir everything together in the pot. It should be thicker than a regular soup, but not dry and clumpy. The consistency should be such that it easily coats a big spoon and yet can be poured out. If there is too much water left, keep on simmering till this consistency is reached. If it gets too dry, add some more warm water and keep simmering. Cook for about 10 minutes after you have reached the right consistency.

Stir in the milk/cream in the pot and lower the heat, cover and cook for another 15 minutes.

Serve hot with Naan or Roti (or any Indian flat bread). Top with more butter/ghee/cream if you want.

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