Dal Makhani

Finished daal and rice
I wish I hadn’t eaten dinner and could have had a bigger taste of the final product!

Recently I got a Dutch oven, I think primarily because they are colorful and I’ve seen them referred to quite often in recipes.  Once I had it, I realized I didn’t really know what they were good for.  Clearly my planning for this kitchen tool purchase was at its finest!

After a little research, I discovered that a Dutch oven mostly seems to be in its niche when used as a low tech slow cooker or if you have a recipe that needs to go between stovetop and oven.  My first dish in the Dutch oven was a whole roast chicken, but it didn’t really roast it much differently than my normal method (which is to use a large cast iron frying pan in the oven).

Making daal
Vegetables and spices, waiting while the lentils and beans cooked.

But somehow I’d gotten into my head that what I really wanted to make in my Dutch oven was something I’d  never made before:  daal.  I know very little about Indian cooking, but I knew there are lots of different kinds of daal and that the daal I’d had at my local northern Indian restaurant was amazing.  I wanted to make that!  As it turns out, there is a type of northern Indian daal often served in restaurants called dal makhani.

I found a recipe for it which seemed fairly straightforward, except that I have no pressure cooker and no patience for soaking dry beans for hours and hours.

Problem:  No patience for soaking beans

Solution:  Japanese cookbook to the rescue!  My anko recipe involves cooking dried beans, so I used the same technique to soften the dried kidney beans and lentils.  Basically, you cook them with about two inches of water over the beans until it’s absorbed, about 30 minutes, and then add a third of a cup or so of cold water every ten or fifteen minutes for another 35 or 40 minutes.  You end up with just a little water over the top of the beans and they’re soft enough to press with a spoon.

Problem:  No pressure cooker

Daal cooking
Daal near the end of cooking

Solution:  Cook everything for four hours.  I had no idea if this would work and I had no idea how long I really needed to cook.  I tossed the softened beans and lentils into the Dutch oven with the rest of the things in the recipe, put on the lid, and then caught up on watching two episodes of Downton Abbey (stirring every once in a while and adding water periodically).

In the end…WOW!  At the first taste test it was a little off, but with the addition of some salt, it was perfect.  Flavorful and rich and I was very sad I’d had dinner while it was cooking.  This recipe also made way more than I was expecting it to.  I’d guess it made enough for 6-8 servings as a main dish or many more as a side.

I’m so happy my daal experiment was a success.  I can’t wait to have some for dinner tomorrow!

Daal, rice, and bok choy
Daal, rice, and bok choy

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