I love lentils. I don’t understand how people can NOT like them: they’re versatile, tasty, cheap and extremely good for you. I get really cross when I hear people say how difficult it is to feed a family proper food cheaply because they’re clearly not making enough, creative use of lentils.
That said, this recipe is the antithesis of all of the above. It makes use of black lentils which can be a little tricky to track down, it contains a ton of cream and butter, making it neither healthy nor particularly cheap. But it tastes amazing. I was first introduced to this type of dahl by the excellent Shabab restaurant in Leeds. The restaurant was across the road from Andy’s flat so I ordered more than my fair share of dahl makhani both as takeaway and in house. It was pretty much all I ate there (paired with a naan bread and a pint of Cobra).
My recipe comes from the excellent Curry. It’s not identical to that produced by Shabab but it’s close and it tastes excellent. As with Shabab’s, it’s best served with a naan bread and the lager of your choice. That does for supper for a greedy couple, but you can always serve as part of a larger meal.
NOTE: you do need to start this day before!
Take 250g of black lentils (urad) and soak them in lukewarm water overnight (we bought ours from the New India Market on South Road at Darlington).
Drain and rinse the lentils, and in a saucepan cover them with about 1½ litres of fresh water. Bring them to the boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook for about an hour. Keep an eye on the lentils – they’ll need a stir and you don’t want to over cook them and turn them into a mush.
Once the lentils are cooked, add 1tsp each of garlic and ginger pastes, 1½ tsp of salt (don’t leave this out – lentils without salt is just wrong!), and red chilli powder to taste (about 2 tsp gives the finished product some good heat). Simmer for a little longer and then add 2 tbsp of tomato paste and (wait for it) 150g of lightly salted butter (if you use unsalted you’ll just need to add more salt when you adjust the seasoning).
Stir in the butter and keep stirring until the lentils become thick and creamy. If you wander off now you’ll likely end up with a split mix and I doubt very much you want to eat lentils with a slick of melted butter floating on top …
Finish by stirring in 1 tsp of garam masala, a generous pinch of ground fenugreek leaves (methi) – if you have them (we almost never do) and finish with 4 tbsp of cream (get pure cream, don’t use anything with a thickener in it). Check the seasoning and serve immediately.
This does reheat well (making it perfect for work lunch the next day). I’ve never tried freezing it but both the cream and the quantity of butter make me feel that that might not be such a great idea. And to be honest, we’ve never had any problems polishing this off!