There are few things that are as ubiquitous as the famous Dal Makhni when it comes to North Indian cuisine. I know Kanika said something similar to this when she shared her Mahn ki daal recipe. Incase you’re thinking this is the same recipe, it’s not!
However, the dal makhni is cooked with the same dals, just for a little longer and with the addition of some milk fat, cream and butter. All this sounds super unhealthy to some but I have a lighter Dal Makhni recipe for you here.
This recipe remains a family favourite and we love to put a pot to simmer when we cook for get togethers and special occasions.
For those of you still looking for the answer to why “Mahn” ki dal is called “Maa” ki dal, we’ve come across a number of theories. We still can’t confirm the etymology though. But one theory that struck me was from a conversation with Kanika that the word “Mahn” probably comes from “Brahman” or universe or something that is whole. A Pakistani- Punjabi neighbour confirmed they too called it “Maahn” ki dal ( with an emphasis on the ann) and not “Maa”! This is a whole lentil that is considered extremely nutritious.
I asked a few other people and another guess was by my Mom’s friend Mrs. Bedi, who asked me to check if the dal crop is harvested in the month of “Maah” in punjabi or “Maagh” as it is known as in hindi which falls around January. If you have an insight, please let us know in the comments.
Or for all we know, the punjabis twisted the Maash ki dal (دال ماش māsh dāl) into Mahn ki dal.
Coming back to the Dal Makhni recipe, numerous food historians have credited Delhi’s Moti Mahal of coming up with the recipe. ITC’s Bukhara who are known for their slow cooked Dal Bukhara recipe also have acknowledged them for the creation of this historic dish a little after independence. Vir Sanghvi discuss the history of the dal makhni in detail in a rude food article here.
Most recipes call for use of butter and cream, which you could easily switch with a cup or two of milk. It makes the dal lighter on the tummy but still extremely rich in taste.
3/4th cup Mahn dal/ Whole black urad dal
1/4th cup rajma
3-4 garlic cloves- finely chopped or crushed
2 inches of ginger- finely chopped
2 small onions- finely chopped
3-4 ripe tomatoes
1 green chilli
1 tbsp ketchup or tomato paste
a pinch of heeng (asafoetida)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1 tsp red chilli powder
2 1/2 tsp coriander powder
1/2 tsp garam masala powder
1 cup of milk (around 200 ml)
1 tsp cumin
1 black cardamom
1 tsp- whole black pepper
1 stick of cinnamon
2 tsp- dried fenugreek leaves ( kasoori methi)
2 tbsp ghee
1 tbsp butter
1/2 cup fresh coriander leaves- chopped
2-3 cups water
Wash and soak the dal and rajma together in . You could soak for 2 hours if you are in a hurry but overnight or even 6-7 hours would be ideal.
In a pressure cooker, transfer the soaked dal and add more water to cover the dals completely, almost double the quantity of dal.
Add salt and turmeric and pressure cook till at least 2 whistles and 15 mins on low heat.
Meanwhile prep for the tadka by chopping the onions and garlic together and then puréeing the tomato, ginger and green chilli together. Keep aside.
In a mortar and pestle, roughly crush the whole spices together (cumin, cinnamon, black cardamom, black pepper and cloves).
Heat the ghee in a small wok or pan. Once the ghee is hot, add the heeng followed by crushed spices. Let the spices bloom on medium high heat for 30 seconds. Next add the chopped onions and garlic. Cook for 5-7 minutes by stirring often till the onions are golden brown.
Cooking the onions properly in a tadka makes all the difference in any north Indian curry. Do not compromise on how well done the onions need to be. But do not let them burn either. Stirring often and keeping a watchful eye will help of course!
Add the puréed tomato-ginger-chilli mix next. Stir the tadka carefully and the tomatoes sizzle in the wok.
Next add a bit of salt to the tadka followed by the red chilli powder, coriander powder, kasoori methi and garam masala.
Cook this tadka on medium heat till the tomatoes disinegreate and the oil separates on the side.
Meanwhile, release the pressure from the pressure cooker and check the dal. They should be mushy. Add a cup of milk and leave the dal to simmer on low heat for 8-10 minutes.
Once the tadka is cooked, add it to the dal and let mix well.
If you do not mind using cooking cream or butter or both, you can add it now.
Let the dal cook for 35-40 minutes on low heat. Stirring occasionally would help it from sticking to the bottom.
Add a dollop of butter, chopped green coriander leaves and the dal is ready to serve.
Serve this low fat Dal Makhni with some jeera rice, roti or naan. Would be great with some tangy chicken potatoes or Chicken Ghee Roast too!
More Dal recipes on Kitchenpostcards