All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2018
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I love Indian food. I always have. I also love cooking with dry beans & lentils because they are so inexpensive & yield many servings for pennies per serving. The only issue with Indian recipes is acquiring the exotic spices – which can be expensive if you do not buy them from an Indian market. Ethnic markets are always the best place to buy spices because each will typically carry all you need for recipes from that area of the world and at greatly reduced prices. If you do not live in an area with much diversity – Amazon is wonderful. You can typically omit a few spices from most recipes with little loss of flavor but it is really satisfying to be as authentically true to a regional recipe as possible. With Thai food, for example, getting fresh kaffir lime leaves & Thai basil makes an enormous difference. You just open the packages of these things and are transported to your favorite Thai restaurant. Indian food has a few staples that are hrd to get around – garam masala, for example. But it is stuff like cardamom & fenugreek (methi) that add authenticity. Fenugreek is an herb – pictured below – both fresh & dried. It also comes in seed form & as a powder and it is ubiquitous in Indian recipes in one form or another. It might be a good idea to research a few Indian recipes & stock up on the critical spices sif you want to experiment with this wonderful cuisine. HERE is a list of the most used spices – garam masala being the most commonly used and that list omitted the kasoori (or kasuri) methi (dry fenugreek leaves) and I would add that to your list as well as amchoor (mango powder).
I made a version of mahkani in July – seen above – my Spicy Vegan Dal Makhani (Beluga or Black Lentils) for the Slow Cooker. That dish used beluga lentils & is not as authentic as today’s recipe. In today’s recipe I used whole black lentils (also called urad dal or black gram) and red kidney beans (rajma). I not only soaked these beans overnight but I also cooked them in my slow cooker for 5 hours on high AND left them overnight to let the flavors meld. I recommend this (though it is not necessary) to let the beans really soften & the flavors blend – so – if you are making this dish it takes two days before you are eating it. Again, you definitely could eat it after the 5 hours but like many stew-type dishes – it gets better over time. The good news is – there is no prep cooking for this dish so, except for cutting up an onion & 2 peppers – the slow cooker does all the work (except the smoking process – explained below). The lentils & beans I used are below – dry – and as they looked after soaking them – separately – overnight. As you can see – they changed color considerably. This dish is traditionally very rich using varied amounts of butter & heavy cream. I used only 2 TBS of vegan butter & 1/2 cup vegan sour cream – so this dish is not quite so heavy.
As to smoking your dal makhani – it is VERY easy & I recommend it very highly. It just requires a chunk of a natural charcoal & a small metal bowl. You simply heat the coal over a burner until it is red hot, place it in a metal bowl & drizzle olive oil on it & place it atop your dal & put the lid on the slow cooker. In ten minutes – you will have authentically, smoky goodness! (The photo of the smoking charcoal is from my Smoked & Spicy Indian Eggplant Curry (Vegan – Vegetarian) – seen below.)
Vegan Smoked Dal Makhani Punjabi-Style (Black Gram/Urad Dal & Rajma) –
Serves 6+ with rice
1 cup dry black urad dal – soaked overnight
1/2 cup dry red kidney beans – soaked overnight
1 onion – diced
2 serrano (or jalapeno) peppers – seeded & diced
2 TBS vegan butter (or coconut or olive oil)
4 cups water (or vegetable stock)
1 cup tomato puree
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1 TBS garam masala
1/2 tsp amchoor
2 TBS dry methi leaves
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp chili powder
3 green cardamom pods
1 TBS fresh or jarred ginger (I used jarred)
4 garlic cloves – minced
1/2 cup vegan sour cream
GARNISH – more sour cream, cilantro or fresh fenugreek leaves
Soak the beans overnight. Drain & rinse.
Heat the oil or butter using the saute setting – saute the onion & peppers until soft. Put everything else in & cook, sealed, on manual for 35 minutes.
Put everything except the sour cream into a slow cooker & cook on high for at least 5 hours – maybe more. If you are going for the overnight uber-cooking (as I did) – leave it covered overnight. I left my cooker off as there was nothing in there that would spoil but – if you are not comfortable with that – add some water & leave it on warm overnight.
Heat the oil or butter and saute the onion & peppers in a large stock pot until soft. Put everything else in & bring to a boil. Reduce heat & simmer until the beans are tender – 30 minutes or so.
Either way – the next step is the smoking (which you can skip but I recommend trying it because it is amazing. Heat the coal over a burner until it is red hot, place it in a metal bowl & drizzle olive oil on it & place it atop your dal & put the lid on the slow cooker or Instant Pot or pan. In ten minutes – you will have authentically, smoky goodness!
Now – stir in the sour cream. If it is too thin – add water or vegan milk to thin it. If it is too thin – cook it on high with the lid off until it thickens. Mashing some of the dal with a wooden spoon or pureeing with an immersion blender gives an even creamier result.
Garnish with a dollop of sour cream & serve with rice.