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Butter Lentils - Dal Makhani

Butter Lentils - Dal Makhani

In rural Punjab, al fresco eating mainly occurs in self service, roadside food joints called dhabas, frequented by truck drivers and travellers. It's cooked on a slow fire, often simmering for hours until the lentils turn creamy.

bar Butter Lentils - Dal Makhani

Picture by Jason Lowe

Serves 2-3

115g (4oz) whole black lentils
70g (2½oz) butter
Pinch of asafoetida (optional)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 green finger chillies, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
¼ tsp salt
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
115g (4oz) cooked kidney beans
1 tsp peeled and finely grated root ginger
¼ tsp garam masala
2 tbsp single cream
handful of coriander leaves, chopped


Check through the black lentils for stones, place in a sieve and wash under cold running water. Soak the lentils in 285ml (1/2 pint) cold water for 8 hours or overnight. Rinse, then place in a saucepan with 400ml (14fl oz) boiling water. Bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for half an hour, until the lentils are tender.

In a pan, melt 50g (1 ¾ oz) butter. Add the asafoetida and stir. Tip in the onion, chillies and garlic and fry for 7 minutes or until golden, stirring occasionally. Add the salt, turmeric, chilli powder, coriander and cumin, then add the kidney beans (rinsed), lentils and remaining cooking water. Mix and add the ginger. Fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add 400ml (14 fl oz) boiling water and simmer for 10 minutes. Sprinkle over the garam masala and put the remaining butter on top. Swirl in the cream and sprinkle over the coriander.


The dal is sometimes rounded off with cream and lashings of butter.
A typical Punjabi meal consists of unleavened flatbread or rotis, yogurt, curried vegetables, and a lentil dish. Dals are a speciality of Punjabi cuisine.

(c) 2012

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