My Cal-Dal Makhani


Dal makhani or Maa ki dal, is the quintessential and staple lentil or dal, cooked in Punjab and the Punjabi diaspora, in India and internationally. I, having inherited some prized Punjabi genes from my paternal family, regard it as my duty to cook it in my home kitchen in California 😉 It’s a delicious dal, to say the least, cooked in its traditional and authentic way, with all, its original flavors and ingredients intact.

My Cal version is delicious too, I would not say it’s entirely authentic, and I’ve taken the liberty of swapping a couple of local store-bought ingredients, with their traditional mates. Makhan means butter, I’ve used it in the form of ghee, and not copious amounts, just a tablespoon. No traditional cream, instead, a mixture of Crème fraîche + store-bought creamy tomato marinara sauce. That’s the local touch. And my handy-dandy traditional pressure cooker, which cooks the dal in a jiffy. I ain’t got the time to slow cook and simmer the dal for a whole day, as would be done in the traditional kitchens. And that I believe would lend it unbelievable flavor and definitely take it to a whole new level. Alas, got to stick with my kitchen rules!

P.S. It tastes better eaten the next day and the day thereafter!


Split black urad dal: 1 1/2 cups

Rajma or red kidney beans: 1/2 cup

1 onion, chopped

1 tomato, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tbsp. chopped ginger

1 tsp. chopped green chilies

1 bay leaf + 1 black cardamom + 2 cloves + 1 small cinnamon stick

3/4 tsp. cumin seeds

A pinch asafoetida

1/2 tsp. sugar

1 tsp. paprika or Kashmiri red chili powder

1/2 tsp. turmeric powder

Salt, to taste

1 tbsp. ghee

Crème fraîche + store-bought creamy tomato marinara sauce, whisked together: 1 cup. Add 1 tsp. crushed kasoori methi or dried fenugreek leaves, and 3/4 tsp. garam masala powder and mix well.

Soak the lentils and kidney beans in water overnight, or 8-10 hours. Drain the water.

Heat ghee in the pressure cooker. Add the bay leaf, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon stick and asafoetida. Add the onions and cook on medium heat. Add the sugar and stir well. Once the onions start turning a nice golden brown, add the cumin seeds. Add the ginger, garlic and green chilies. Add the tomatoes. Stir fry for a few minutes. Add the lentils and kidney beans. Add the remaining spices and salt. Stir well.

Add 6-8 cups of water. Seal the pressure cooker with the lid and pressure. Pressure cook on high, for 2 whistles. Bring heat to low, and let simmer for 40 minutes.

Once the pressure has been released, remove lid. Stir well. One can add more water, if the dal is too thick. Stir well.

Next step, mash the dal or use a hand blender to blend the dal, to a course consistency. If using a hand blender, remove the bay leaf, cinnamon stick and cardamom. Bring dal to a gentle simmer.

Add the Crème fraîche mixture and stir well. Add more salt, if necessary. Serve.



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