Daal Makhani and exploding pressure cookers

Daal Makhani and exploding pressure cookers

This is a hearty and creamy main dish kind of daal. Almost like a chili.   It is made with black lentils or Urad daal.  I used the split Urad daal which cooks a tad bit faster than the whole urad daal.  Most people who make this dish use a pressure cooker.  I don’t happen to own a pressure cooker because they scare me.  When I was about 12 years old we lived in Yemen.  My mom, unused to the altitude of San’aa (capital of Yemen) would  often use a pressure cooker to make most of our meals to save time. She did not understand the mechanics of the release valve and one day when the pressure cooker release valve broke, being a thrifty housewife, she decided to make a make-shift one out of flour and water paste. This created a miniature steam fueled bomb in the kitchen.  I was just coming home from school when the giant explosion sent me running into the kitchen area.  I found my mom among the carnage of raw goat meat, broken windows and dishes.   She looked at me with dazed eyes and said, “did we get bombed?”  She only suffered minor injuries but I have been scared of pressure cookers and certain types of goats ever since.  Even the sound is ominous like a large snake getting ready to strike….

Save yourself and make this daal in a plain old pan, just keep an eye on it and check the water level to make sure it doesn’t dry out.

The nutrient contents of the black lentils and kidney beans are tremendous.  Both are high in protein and the flavors can’t be beat. It is fantastic served with fresh, hot chappatis.  There is nothing quite like the combination.  You won’t miss the meat or the pressure cooker, I promise.

Split Urad daal (black lentils)

Cook the urad daal and kidney beans with water, salt, turmeric, onion and ginger for about 40-50 minutes and mash lightly with a potato masher

Add dry mango powder, garam masala powder and half and half to the daal and cook a few more minutes

In a little hot ghee add cumin seeds, red chilies and red chili powder. Stir to incorporate

Add hot, aromatic ghee to the daal. Mix and take off heat.

Serve hot with fresh chappatis

Daal Makhani

1 cup split black lentils (urad daal)

1/4 cup kidney beans, dry

1/2 onion, chopped

1 1/2 tsp grated ginger

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp Amchur – dry mango powder

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

3-4 whole dried red chilies

1/2 tsp red chili powder

1/4 cup half and half

2 tbsp ghee – clarified butter

1/2 tsp garam masala

5-6 cups water

Wash the kidney beans and daal.  Soak in about 5-6 cups of water overnight.  Soaked daal will almost triple in volume.  In a large heavy bottomed pan add Urad daal, kidney beans, onions, salt, turmeric and ginger.  Add about 5 cups of water bring to boil.  After mixture has come to a boil, turn heat to low and cover.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes on a back burner, checking occasionally for water level and to stir so it doesn’t stick to the bottom.  When the daal and the beans are soft and tender, lightly mash it with a potato masher, you don’t want to use an immersion blender since the texture doesn’t need to be a puree, just slightly mashed.  Add a little more water if needed and cook an additional 5-6 minutes.  Add garam masala, dry mango powder and half and half and cook another 10 minutes on low heat.   Take daal off the heat and in a separate, small pan heat the ghee.  When ghee is nicely heated, add the dry red chilies, cumin seeds and red chili powder.  Stir quickly and pour the hot, aromatic ghee over the daal.  Stir to incorporate and serve with hot chappatis.


19 responses »

  1. Pressure cookers are by far not a new invention, but with improved technology they have become safer and easier to use than ever. Pressure cookers are a great kitchen tool to have on hand for the cold wintery months and are much safer than they were in your parents’ time.

  2. Kaffir lime leaves. Check. Amchoor. Check. Making this! Love soupy daals. And I totally agree with Baconbiscuit212 – we are all just going about our business in a peaceable way for the most part. I love meeting people from other countries and hearing their stories, whether in person or through the Internet. I always smile when you tell a childhood story – I think you’ve got a good autobiography in you, Tahmina.

    • Thanks Kellie. I just came back from speaking at a Press Conference for World Refugee Month and told my “hot dog story” to the whole press corp. It was fun to see even the camera men laugh. Somehow food finds its way into most life events…

    • Thank Emmy, what a compliment coming from superMom/chef such as yourself. Let me know how the makhani turns out. BTW, if you have any keffir lime leaves they are awesome in this dish. Just add some towards the end and fish them out.

  3. I love daal makhani!

    And I am scared of pressure cookers too. They are basically bombs, and I can just imagine the horrible accident that would happen with absent-minded me in the kitchen. Your mom was so lucky that she wasn’t hurt!

    It must be strange to reconcile living in Sa’naa when you were young and what is going on in Yemen right now.

    • I lived there for almost 9 years and traveled all over the Middle East and competed with schools in Egypt, Jordan, etc. It was an awesome time of my life. picked up my other languages skills during that time too. English is my 5th. It makes me sad to see what’s happening in Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Iran. Have lots of friends I keep in touch with.

      • I can only imagine that if I had friends all over the region, I would jump every time I heard something on the news. Western media paints a pretty ugly picture of the Middle East. You would have the impression from reading or watching it that the region is completely overrun with militant fundamentalists and is a completely bombed out wasteland. What I intensely dislike about that perspective is that is completely ignores the fact that millions of perfectly sensible people get on with their lives every single day.

        Have you ever seen the blog Life Goes On In Tehran? http://lifegoesonintehran.com/ I think about his images and perspective whenever I hear something awful about Iran. I imagine that life goes on in Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Egypt, and Jordan too.

        It must have been an amazing place to be when you were younger. People forget or don’t know how sophisticated these places used to be in terms of diversity, cross-cultural influences, people moving from East to West.

      • That’s why I talk directly to people. I’ve lived through a war and two bloody coup de grâce and in each case life does go on….

      • When I was in college, I was studying abroad in West Africa during a coup d’état. I just remember my friend packing up his stuff, turning to me and saying, “Man. I was going to get a sandwich at the market after class too.”

        And then later I remember watching the deposed president’s funeral over espresso at a Chinese restaurant.

        Life does go on!

      • The war I went through was pretty brutal and changed me forever, the two coups were not that horrible. It’s amazing what you can live around.

      • Yes I did and it was and is an architectural wonder with the gypsum covered windows. Every window has a miniature stained glass on the top.

  4. Scary story…. It’s funny, when I was a kid we always had a pressure cooker in our house and most households seemed to as well. Nowadays, I think you will find a lot of people who don’t know what they are…

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