Saturday, October 15, 2011

Dal Makhni

So, In my search for a Dal Makhni that was a happy medium between Meena's version and Vegeyum's version, I came across this simplest version of in Sanjeev Kapoor's website. I made some tweaks and added a few of my own touches to come up with a more indulgent version for those one-off occasions. In this case, that one off occasion was Diwali and I made it for a potluck. It was liked by all and I got rave reviews from everyone :) You can find it HERE!!!

I made a better version of Dal Makhni from Meena's blog here. Totally in love with it! Also, there's a free cookware giveaway. Read here for rules to participate :)


My first impression of dal makhni (as seen on TV and other media) was a very tasteless and overcooked dal with little to no seasoning. But when I did taste good dal makhni at Mast Kalandar in Bangalore, I was sold!

When I looked up the recipes online, they were way too complicated and the stupid social stigma associated with stocking black dal at home kept me further away from the dream. Anyways, being away from home has its benefits and I finally got to make some dal makhni at home. After the research, I knew the recipe was rich...but I was NOT prepared for this level of rich. I haven't used this much butter, ghee and cream in ONE SINGLE dish. Being a health freak, now that I have actually made this and know how much of butter, ghee and cream goes into this...I don't see myself making this often or for that matter ordering it at a restaurant too. It's seriously a crazy rich dish and personally for me, I just cannot stomach it.

Of course, I may be totally wrong here. Because the alternate name for Dal Makhni is apparently Maa Ki Dal. So it has to be a healthy too, right? There were many versions out there but I picked on one from "A Lifetime of Cooking". The recipe is supposed to be handed down from the chef of Oberoi Hotels in Bangalore. With a small prayer to the Gods that I don't die of cholesterol, I began gathering the ingredients for this dish. Hope you guys have the courage to try it too.

Black Urad Dal (whole) - 300 gm
Rajma (red) - 100 gm
Channa dal - 100 gm
Ginger - 20 gm
Garlic - 6 cloves
Green chillies - 4
Salt - to taste

For the tadka:
Ghee (clarified butter) - 50 gm
Jeera - 2 tsp
Garlic - 6 cloves
Hing - 1/2 tsp
Methi seeds (fenugreek) - 1 tsp
Tomato (puree) - 200 gm

Butter - 100 gm
Half and half (non-fat) - 30 ml
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala - 1 tsp

(I doubled all the ingredients in the recipe EXCEPT for the ghee and butter. I also used non-fat half-and-half instead of cream. BUT, in spite of all of this...the dal was way too rich for me)

1. Soak all the dals overnight in warm water. Wash well the next day ( at least 3 times).
2. Chop the garlic, ginger and green chillies finely. Add this to the dal along with some salt and pressure cook for at least 3 whistles. Then set on low and cook for another 15 mins.
3. Once the pressure is released, open the cooked and mash the dal well. I did not drain the water since it probably has all of the proteins in it. But the real recipe calls you to drain the excess water. I think it's a judgement call here.

1. Heat the ghee in a heavy bottomed vessel. Add the cumin seeds and let it splutter.
2. Then add the methi seeds (fenugreek) and fry until lightly brown.
3. Now add the chopped garlic and fry until the color changes a little.
4. Add the hing and then add the tomato puree. Cook until the oil separates from the puree.
5. Now add the dal to this tadka and mix well. After it boils once, add the masalas and salt along with the butter and half-and-half. Simmer for 30 to 45 minutes until well blended.

Serve hot with rotis or steamed rice.


Usually, normal dal that I make does not last more than 4 meals in my house. But this one lasted for a week and a half. Even VJ couldn't stomach too much of this. He was completely aghast at the amount of butter that went into it. When I told him it was half of what the recipe called for, he literally went ballistic. All I say is this, try this dal at your own peril. You won't regret it once it's done. It does taste heavenly and absolutely like the dal makhni in restaurants. The only difference is now, you do know what goes into that innocent dal makhni that is served to you in restaurants.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Paneer Butter Masala

Being a vegetarian, I think it's very understandable when I say that I love paneer. It's one staple that's always stocked in my freezer along with that packet of frozen parathas. Paneer is also probably the one thing that I would take with me if I would be marooned in an island. My love for paneer can be traced back to this one restaurant in my hometown of Pondichéry: Hotel Surguru. When it opened back in the late 90's, it took the small city of Pondichéry by storm. That was the place where I ate stuffed nan and paneer butter masala for the very first time. And since then, paneer and I have shared a relationship that's stronger than many bonds I've formed since then.

I tried to re-create the recipe many times over the years and although all of those attempts were good in it's own way, they always lacked that kind of "restaurant" taste that I craved. When I stumbled upon this recipe on Nags was like a BINGO moment for me. The one thing about her recipe that I did change was the use of the cream. I remember from some vague memory of a PBM version that using cashew paste was the trick. So I decided to substitute the cream with the cashew paste. So Nags, this one's for you...I enjoy your blog a lot and I'm happy that I tried this recipe of yours. It's a favorite of VJ's and Kupy's now and it's a joy to see them gobble it all down like kids.

Paneer cubes - 2 cups
Onion - 1 medium sized
Ginger-garlic paste - 1 tbsp
Red chilli powder - 1 tsp
Coriander powder - 1 tsp
Garam masala powder - 1 tsp
Tomato - 1 medium sized
Tomato ketchup - 1 tbsp
Kasuri methi (dried fenugreek leaves) - 1 tbsp/a generous pinch
Milk - 1/2 cup
Cashew nuts (whole/broken) - 1/4 cup
Bay leaf - 1 small
Oil - 3 tbsp
Salt - to taste

1. Set the paneer out to defrost and cut into cubes.
2. Chop the onions, puree the tomato and make a paste of the cashew nuts with little milk or water.
3. Heat the oil in a pan. Add th ebay leaf first, followed by the onions and 1/2 tsp salt. Fry until the onions are browned.
4. Now add the ginger-garlic paste and fry until the rawness fades away.
5. Add all the masalas (chilli powder, coriander powder and garam masala powder) and fry for 30 secs.
6. Now add the tomato puree, tomato ketchup and the kasuri methi. Mix well and cook for about 5 minutes until it is all well blended. You can also fry the mix a little extra in this step until the tomato leaves oil. This is for the people who don't enjoy the tangy taste of the tomato puree. But I haven't tried frying extra and I'm not sure how it would be.
7. Add the milk and lower the fire. Cover and cook for 5 mins.
8. Finally add the paneer, cashew paste and salt to taste. Mix well and cook for another 5 mins with the lid.

Serve hot with oven baked nan (which I am definitely going to try sometime) or phulkas.


And this time you don't get the usual lame lines, 'cause I can now take pics with my Panasonic LUMIX...Ha! :)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Tirunelveli Sodhi + Chepa Kezhangu Varuval + Ingee Chutney - Virundhu Saapadu Series

My native place is the city of Tirunelveli; famous for its temples (Nellaiappar Kovil), the Thamirabarani river, Rmkv and most importantly it's cuisine. As a kid, I never realised how distinct amma's cooking was and the way we mixed our ingredients giving it that unique flavor. It will always be reminiscent of home and amma and everything that goes with it. I have been to Tirunelveli about 5 times in my whole life and on each visit it was for a wedding or some other religious trip. And all such trips have one major component in common; the food. Amazing , delicious, mouth watering yet simple vegetarian food. Rice is our staple and the curries that go with it are countless with each curry having a vegetable stir-fry (poriyal) as it's accompaniment.

On that note, I am going to introduce a typical Tirunelveli dish called Sodhi. It's a coconut milk based curry and it's kind of the Indian version of the Thai Green Curry. And yes, that's the reason I love Thai food. Sodhi is served during the Maru Veedu function of a Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai wedding. When amma makes this at home, ingee chutney (ginger chutney) is a given for the simple reason that coconut milk and rice is a heavy meal and the ginger chutney balances the taste and is easy on the stomach. But my most favorite dish that goes with sodhi is the cheppa kezhangu varuval (tarro root/eddoe).

Amma and appa used to literally take the entire morning in the pre-prep for making sodhi. They extracted the milk from two fresh coconuts by hand and later on using a mixer/blender. But now, thanks to consumerism, when I want to make sodhi I go to the nearby super market and buy a can of coconut milk.

What follows is a recipe that's as authentic as a sodhi recipe can get.

Coconut milk - 1 can
Moong dal/Paasi paruppu - 2 tbsp
Potato - 1 small sized
Carrot - 1
Drumstick (if available) - 1/2
Eggplant/Aubergine/Brinjal - 1 small sized
Onion - 1/2 medium sized
Green chillies - 2 spicy hot
Curry leaves - a few
Mustard seeds - 1/2 tsp
Coconut oil - 1 tsp
Turmeric powder - a pinch
Salt - to taste

1. Wash and cook the dal in 1/2 cup water in a vessel.
2. Slice the onions, slit the green chillies and chop the vegetables in big peices. Add the coconut oil in another vessel and splutter the mustard seeds in it.
3. Add the curry leaves, green chillies, onions and turmeric powder and saute for 2 to 3 minutes. 4. Now add the vegetables and fry for another 2 to 3 minutes. Add the cooked dal to this, 1/2 cup water and cover and cook until the vegetables are done.
5. Add the coconut milk and water as needed to get a thin pouring consistency like sambhar or rasam. Now add salt to taste and let it come to just one boil. DO NOT OVER BOIL as the coconut milk will break/curdle.

Cheppa Kezhangu Varuval
Cheppa kezhangu/Arbi/Tarro Root - 6 medium sized
Gram flour/besan - 4 tbsp
Chilli powder - 1/2 tsp
Turmeric powder - 1/4 tsp
Salt - to taste
Oil - to deep fry
Water - as needed

1. Wash the kezhangu in water until all the mudiness is gone and place in a vessel with enough water to cook it. Alternatively, you can also cook it in a pressure cooker - 2 whistles should do the trick.
2. Once cooked, let it cool and then peel it. Cut into half (lengthwise) and then into wedges (again going lengthwise).
3. Place in a plate or wide vessel. Mix the besan with the chilli powder, turmeric powder and salt. 4. Sprinkle on the kezhangu and mix until they are lightly coated. Repeat if necessary and add water if it is too dry.
5. Heat the oil to almost-smoking temperature in a kadai. Lightly slip in the pieces one by one and deep fry until they are a nice golden brown. Remove using a slotted spoon onto a paper towel.

Ingee Chutney
Ginger - 8 inch piece
Red chillies (dried) - 2
Urad dal/uluntham paruppu - 1 tsp
Channa dal/kadalai paruppu - 1 tsp
Mustard seeds/kadugu - 1/2 tsp
Oil - 1/2 tsp
Curry leaves - a few (optional)

1. Cut or slice the ginger into rough pieces. Do not chop finely.
2. Heat oil in a small kadai and splutter the mustard seeds. Add the urad dal, channa dal, curry leaves and fry until lightly browned.
3. Add the ginger and fry for 2 to 3 mins. Remove and set aside to cool.
4. Once cooled down, blend in a mixer with salt to taste until it's a smooth paste.

Amma, aachi and possibly countless other mother's, daughters, daughters-in-law etc. from other Tirunelveli Saiva Pillai homes :)