mostly about food and cooking, but also the stories about the Bread and the Butterflies!

Movements and Mah di Dal or Dal Makhni

In Punjab, Ruminations and rants, Under 30 min! on April 11, 2011 at 8:30 pm

If you live in India then you have all just been witness to a new kind of activism – the non-violent, light-a-candle protest for a cleaner, corruption-free India.  You may well ask what is new about that – did the Mahatma not start it all those years ago?  I beg to differ.  Those were sustained movements that had mass support from people who knew what they were struggling for.  Anna Hazare rightly said that the struggle has just begun.  But the masses that turned up to support him, especially those in this most corrupt of cities, do they really know what it means to be part of a clean society?  I will be amongst the happiest people if Delhiites really want to be honest and clean.

But I seriously doubt we understand the meaning of signing up for never paying a bribe.  It will mean waiting in line for our turn.  It will mean following rules and living by the laws.  Even when we don’t agree with them.  It will mean no unauthorised constructions, building within prescribed FAR, no encroachment on public land.  It will mean paying our taxes.  It will mean jail time every time we break the law (imagine that!).  It will mean being civil! Those who were there at Jantar Mantar the past week to support Anna in his mission, do they understand the full portent of being part of a non-corrupt society?

The visual media came into its own and declared it a revolution.  If these journos spot a white person in a crowd they assume them to be experts and ask, “So, do you think India has changed?” ??? What kind of a question is that for a tourist?  The forthright white woman told this senior journalist she couldn’t answer that but she might call what she was witnessing a spark perhaps. I think it was lost on our reporter from NDTV who (and many others like him) went on to then compare it with the recent uprisings in the Arab world!  Don’t ask.  Here’s another perspective.

I didn’t join the protesters at Jantar Mantar.  I didn’t join in the fast from home.  But I think I know what it will mean to live in a clean India.  I have never paid a bribe.  Barring the procedure arranged by none other than a lawyer for a group of us registering out flats in the notoriously corrupt neighbouring state ruled by a woman; it made me ill and I was upset (and let us agree that an exception proves the rule).   I did not pay a bribe to get our building plans sanctioned.  I did not pay the electricity supervisor who came to install the new electric meter (this was in NOIDA!) and then refused to give me the papers till I visited him in his office the following day.  I did not pay any donation for my son’s school admission.  I did not pay any donation for my son’s college admission.  I (try to) insist my clients pay by cheque (and, increasingly, the do!).   A few years ago, I made four visits to the Passport Office 12km away, waited for hours each time, to rectify a nonexistent problem on my passport.  Yet, the next time we needed new passports, we did not pay the policeman who visited us to verify our details.  I know a cleaner Delhi will mean I will not have to worry if we are misfits for the way we choose to live.

I wait in line at the neighbourhood grocer for my turn.  I never jump a queue.  I rarely honk.  I do not litter.  I hold the door for the person following me. I have never ever had a maid who was underage (in fact, all my maids have been older than 20, and I have never permitted their daughters to lend a helping hand for even the tiniest of chores in my house).  I try to use legal or free software.  Till recently I did use one that I needed but couldn’t afford (I would have had to sell my practice to buy it) but I justified it by using the version that was 1o years old and did not ‘upgrade’ to the newer ones till I could, at last, finally afford the licensed copies last year.  What a relief it was to us.  I do not make photocopies of entire books.  I tell my students to be ethical.

To be non-corrupt is to be ethical, no? What I do not do is speak-up when I see injustice.  That needs courage.  Being ethical only needs discipline and conviction.  I am not saying I am a saint.  What I am trying to say is that I have been an Anna supporter all along and will be one of the happiest people to get to live in a less corrupt India.

That above, is the first politically flavoured rant on this blog!  Who knows what will follow.  But let us get back to the main theme: food!

Summer is here and with it is the scarcity of greens at the greengrocer.  We can now have our fill of gourds and potatoes, with only spinach and coriander for green relief.  I have been cooking with wadi to up the blandness of the squashes – bottle gourd cooked in ghee benefits the most.  This is also the time to fall back on old faithfuls like pitla and zhunka – I made a fiery version with buttermilk, garlic, and kadipatta which was fabulous with ghee soaked bajri bhakri.  Lentils of all kind are the other staples in the pantry that always help when you can’t cook with the stinky end-of-season cabbages and cauliflowers.

I may be an enthusiastic cook but as you can already know from the infrequency of my posts lately, that I am a bit constrained for time these days.  I may, on many occasions, have neither the inclination nor the time to plan elaborate menus when family decides to drop in at the slimmest of notices.  The dal for such occasions then is the fabulously decadent dal makni that practically cooks itself!  If I am in two minds over what to cook, the ever helpful husband will prompt, “Dal makni?” I did it the bhuno way for many years till I watched the trusty Madhur Jaffery’s cook her version in Amritsar right after talking about the most delicious kind served as part of prashad at the Golden Temple.  I have also attempted the slow-cooking simmering-way (after the initial pressure cooking, of course) to get to the creamy dhaba-esqe quality, but this has been the only way for me since.

Here, my friends, is another one of those quick Indian cooking recipes from my kitchen that is sure to become the family favourite on many a busy family-table for those who love home cooking!

dal makni

Mah di Dal or Dal Makhni

1.5 C whole urad dal
1 C rajMah! (red kidney beans)
2 red onions, chopped (about 1.5C or thereabouts)
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
a few cloves of garlic, chopped
a heaped T grated ginger
2 t red chilli (cayenne) powder
1t turmeric powder
1 t Punjabi garam masala
a big knob (1/8-1/4C) of white unsalted butter (homemade if you have)
2 t salt (or to taste)
1 C milk
1/4 C cream (optional)

dal makni

Soak the lentils overnight. If you remembered in the morning that you folks are coming for dinner, all is not lost; soak the lentils in hot water for four hours till the lentils plump up. Drain and rinse in fresh water. Cook in the pressure cooker with enough water (I am guessing here – maybe 6 cups, I have never measured) till the lentils are tender and mushy. Mash with a wooden masher (or whatever other implement that might do the same work such as a ravi, or a rolling pin). You will likely need to add more water at this stage. You should have a reasonably thick, not watery, consistency.

dal makni

Put in all the other ingredients except the milk and cream.

dal makni

Pressure cook for a further ten minutes. Remove the lid of the cooker once the pressure subsides. Stir and check for consistency; it should be like what you get when you order at your favourite restaurant. ( 🙂 Sorry, if that was not very helpful.  You need to go and order some right away!) Now add the milk and give it a good stir. You may add the cream now or later, as a garnish. I mostly skip this step. Serve it with hot naan or paranthas or even pita.

Try it and let me know how much you loved this version that allows you to be a domestic god(dess) with no extra fuss!

dal makni

  1. I loved the ‘don’t take or give bribes’ part of this post. My dad in all his 70+ years stuck (and still continues to..) to his principles 99% of the time. We have seen him through difficult times and I perfectly know what you mean. He has never given, taken, encouraged bribes, however small in nature. I am proud to say that he doesn’t lie either.
    Dal makhani, hmmm reminds me that it has been a few years since I made this at home!

    The tribe is getting rarer by the day! But let us try to keep the flags flying.

  2. Being honest and being ethical is the same most of the times …in practice , and i feel it’s not that difficult as people make it sound sometimes.

    Kaali daal is a favorite and i remember the golden temple langar wali daal with those slightly chewy rotis , i can still feel the aroma and everything sensory attached with it..:)

    Interestingly , i saw a recipe of tortilla and black bean pie on a phoren blog 2 yrs ago and was reminded of this golden temple daal , posted the slow cooked version of daal soon after …we are mad about food no?

    I agree it is not as hard as it is made out to be. If we all would not want out-of-turn things everything could be so much better for all!

    The langar food has such a unique flavour! will check your slow cooked version…

  3. I cannot agree with you more–I’ve grown up with the same principles–my dad has never given out (or accepted !) a bribe. No donations to schools (though they weren’t as rampant as they are these days, but this was NOIDA in the late eighties)I got my passport without any bribes, got our marriage certificate without any bribes (we had to run around the office for three days–not that much fun for a newly-married couple)and yes, the path is NOT easy. I changed from a girl with starry eyed idealism to a cynical b**&ch somewhere along the way and find it hard to accept the “chalta hai” attitude to date. I hope and pray that those winds of change do indeed sweep down and leave everything dew-kissed and rosy…but I have to admit I was sorely disappointed on a recent trip back to the motherland. Things have, if possible, worsened over the past few years (or have I changed?)I saw a total lack of respect for my 75+ year old dad as he ran about dealing with some pending paperwork. Is this what we’ve come to? Where are those (mythical?) “Indian values”? Where is the respect for elders that was supposed to be ingrained into our fabric? this for a man who walks back in the Delhi heat to return Rs 5 to the mother dairy guy who handed him extra money.

    I’m saddened beyond measure.

    Donations were around at the time our son went to school. But interestingly we weren’t asked at all! No one believes we paid zilch to have our son study in the school he did.
    It’s not easy but I find it even harder to pay a bribe! And if someone asks for it (have been asked directly just that once by the electrical engineer), I get physically ill! I think he must have seen it written all over my face that day!
    I don’t know what values or culture we are talking about…we have neither today.

    • hmm yes GB …things are really ugly in some of the govt. offices ( actually most)and the most difficult it is for those who are working to clean up the system while being in the system…i know it from personal experience . But at the same time , it has always been difficult to be honest and ethical in our country (that is what i have seen). Being a middle class person in India i feel i have been through many other difficulties too so standing up for my values has been relatively easier for me ….more because it comforts me from inside..

      As you talk about people lacking respect for older people , i can’t agree more as my husband is fighting one such cause …and not for personal reasons . There are good people too and we meet many.

      To take such things up officially is an uphill task all the way. Kudos to your husband for having the strength.

  4. Anita, I second your thoughts. What is happening in my home state is beyond belief. I also agree with the commentator writing in my adopted home newspaper that Indians that something that is essential for a society free of corruption. I should have had my hair rise in defense but it did not, all I felt was shame because he was stating a painful fact.

    It is very easy to light candles and support a fasting Gandhian but when it comes down to I doubt many of us are willing to make the sacrifices to make it happen. It would be a big inconvenience for those who pay their way through. I am not sure but I am cynical beyond repair where India and its corruption is concerned. I salute people like you and my dad who will walk to a govt office several times but not pay a bribe.

    As for this dal it is delicious and looks so very good.

    I hope we can do something to change that impression, however apt it may be. I draw hope from the fact that just a few 50 years ago there was immense corruption in London, and the NY and other parts of the US, were unimaginably corrupt and disregardful of law a hundred years ago. I want to believe we can change. The other scenario is too depressing.

  5. Should have read,
    I also agree with the commentator writing in my adopted home newspaper that Indians lack that something that is essential for a society free of corruption.

    Here is the article if you are interested India’s costly culture of corruption

    Thanks for the link, Indo. It made for some relevant reading…

  6. As you rightly put it do the people know what it means to live without bribing? I am cynical too coming from a fsmily practising Gandhian ideals to a great extent possible. But I wish hazare success.
    And as for the dhal, thank God for Dhal!!!

    Yes, thank God for good food! It makes you believe better things are possible!

  7. Dear Anita…..i have been waiting for this so eagerly…….saw it… it & was very happy to know it is the quick fix type & jumped to make it …….i am licking my bowl clean! 🙂

    You are very welcome, Suma. 🙂

  8. Thought of you all day today as I made the buns (even as I was thinking of them). Will call you sometime soon.

    Maybe as soon I’ve made this Dal Makhni.


    Saw the fabulous buns already! Yeah, make the dal; it will do you good!

  9. I’ve been trying to read more and more about this to gain a perspective on the issue. I’m one of those idealistic people 🙂 But like you, I’ve not paid a bribe in my life and will never. I’ve figured out that I can smile, wait and have immense patience (for being an impatient, hasty person otherwise) and control over myself to wait even if someone in front of me is mocking me. Passport, Indian customs, RTO- I’ve had an issue everywhere and stuck it out. And frankly, I’m proud and happy. There is a lot of satisfaction in that. And that is my problem with this ‘revolution.’ It was largely a social media thing IMO. Photo ops, ‘likes’ on FB, RTs on Twitter, talking about how we need an anti corruption bill without knowing what is in it – all signs of people waiting to rise against corruption, but not wanting to take the first step themselves in their lives. We should have a social experiment – one month of a year, one whole city should try to follow all the rules and live honourably. And then see the difference. Life will slow down, but where are we running with it?

    Sorry for such a long comment. I’m one of those people who’ve been reading and wanting to do something and not found a way to effectively channelise it. Finally someone said it. That we should take the first step 🙂 Thanks for that.

    I love Dal Makhni. Who doesn’t? However, when I make it, it turns gummy sometimes 😦 Do you know why that’d possibly happen? My husband’s turns out well though! I’m going to try your version too to see what I can do with it.

    I can get very frustrated sometimes though. The unfairness of it all can get to you sometimes. But, I think, it has become better in the last few years (of course, there are miiiiiiiiiiles to go!), at least in some of our daily struggles like phone connections and bills…at least where it is not in the hand of public bodies. It may not auger well for the future where we may hand over critical services into the hands of private players…but it has certainly reduced regular headaches. Anyone and everyone has a phone now, and we pay the bills online!

    Try this version and see how it is different from yours and therein will lie your answer!

  10. An insightful post! And kudos to you for the willingly taking the right way inspite of its many difficulties.

    Some of us are destined (doomed?) to suffer with a smile. 🙂

  11. wonderful, the honesty and true love you have for your country and the cooking.
    I will definitely try this version of Dal makhani!

    Just made this way. Don’t know any other.

    The dal puts the smiles back!

  12. What a great post Anita and well said. I wondered too if the people supporting this know how it is to be mocked at when you don’t toe the line and “pay up”. I remember refusing to pay 2 guys from the registrars office who came home to check why I hadn’t done the rounds for my copy of the sale deed – I coolly told them that by law it had to come to me sometime, so I would rather wait for it.

    The dal looks amazing and I can’t imagine it didn’t require any bhunaoing! Wow!!

    Hey, Miri!
    Isn’t it shameful how they show up at your doorstep?! One policeman asked my mom at the gate if he should really leave after being refused his ‘bakshish’ for police verification!

  13. I, myself, can’t imagine how it is to live like that- with officials stuffing their pockets and favouring those who can afford to do so; I commend your stance and every effort to stand up to such corruption! Why else, indeed, do we have laws if some people are exempt from them!?

    But it’s not perfect here either, as you may know: positions of power and corruption traditionally go hand-in-hand, and especially when there is a thriving black market for any high-demand goods. Money speaks the loudest.

    LOVE mah di dal- one of my faves that I haven’t had in ages!!

  14. Mah di dal here too! I never once believed Anna Hazare would shake the country like this.

  15. Yummy!! I just made this with naurangi dal that my mom got from a friend’s native village visit. You are wonderful Anita, the dal tastes exactly like what you get at langars. Have guests coming over for dinner this evening and they requested Indian food. Everyone says that one should not try a recipe for the first time when expecting guests but with your recipes I never worry about that. They have been super hits each and every time. By the way, upon my mom’s advice I recently added lime size chunk of imli to your punjabi choley recipe and the outcome was even better than usual – as if it is possible. Try it and see if you like it.
    Your thoughts on corruption in India brings back memories of many painful events we endured because my mom refused to be a part of the system. I hope things change and feel wonderful to know that people like you still live in India and continue to contribute to society with honesty.

  16. Reminds me of my visit to the passport office too, when some minor thing had to be corrected. The concerned officer saw that he wasn’t getting a bribe and made us wait for a long time(again, after meeting him initially) and finally when we went in the second time, he asked a lot of rude questions, frustration and anger writ on his face for obvious reasons. We didn’t budge of course. I wish things improve in India soon.
    Thanks for the dal makhni recipe. I’m gonna make it for the weekend dinner party!

  17. I will be honest and tell you that I have only read someone else’s interpretation of Anna Hazare’s demands and I did not see a mention of paying government employees a reasonable salary. For example, I did not see anything about payscales of postmen who bring the mail day in and day out, who trudge up the stairs of multi-storey buildings, delivering mail door to door no matter what the weather. Do you know your mailman’s name? How many children he has? What future he sees for them? Do you know his salary? And any benefits he gets? If he gets sick, can he afford to get the same kind of treatment you get at a hospital or does he have to go to a government hospital where he may not? Extrapolate this to the people who work at the passport office, at the municipal offices, in the railways. If they were all paid adequately, I think that would be the first step toward a ‘clean’ India. It’s a myopic view and one of an NRI – and NRIs always know how to fix all the problems 😉 but I think it’s a good place to start.

    And, yes, I just posted dal makhani, too. Weird! Both recipes may be from the same source – esteemed MJ, but I think the recipe I use is adapted to a western audience whereas yours is more for the Indian audience. ;-D Which cookbook did you get your recipe from?

  18. Looks amazing thanks for this wonderful Punjabi recipe.I loved your version look so delicious.

  19. Dear Anita
    How are you? Sorry I cd rarely visit blogs for past few months,
    Thank you so much for this nice treat with the fantastic write up and this traditional recipe.
    Have a nice day

  20. Dear Anita – thank you ! I’ve only tried kaali dal once in 14 years and gave up after the labour resulted in tasteless thick goo. This was amazingly easy and DELICIOUS even after I skipped the butter as I didnt have it. Only problem – tho I soaked both Rajma and urad dal together prev night, and cooked, the dal cooked beautifully – in fact was a bit mushy – but the Rajma remained half-cooked. What to do? Best wishes, Anjali

    Some varieties of beans, if they have been sitting in the larder for too long, refuse to cook properly. I have found it especially true of Kashmiri rajma. Try the recipe using a different bean – such as the cranberry beans or chitre rajma perhaps.

  21. Dear Anita
    Very well written , I like it.
    The recipe is also very nice. Havent cooked this dal for quite some time now.
    Have a nice day

  22. Hi Anita,

    I have often visited your blog, having come across it about a month or so. It is very well written & I have thoroughly enjoyed reading several posts.

    I keep coming back to this recipe – it looks really simple, but this is one of my all time favourite dishes… so I have just soaked all the beans & I am going to try making this your way tomorrow. I’ll let you know how it turns out: I am really looking forward to it 🙂

    Anita. (yeah, me too)

    • … and I made it – I used Adzuki beans, navy beans & whole toor dal; It was absolutely delicious. Thanks you for such an easy, but yummy recipe! 🙂

      We have a winner… recipe! It is great when a good dish can also be easy and simple.
      Thanks for writing in, Anita.

  23. I am a recipe surfer and never comment but I had to come back and report to you that this is my absolute fav recipe in the world right now!! I cook it once a week, it’s so easy all I need is my pressure cooker and food processor and it’s literally no sweat. It’s also very, very delicious. Thank you for sharing this with the masses.

    Thanks for coming by to tell me! Now you must try the rajma, and the chhole recipes here. Albeit a bit more work than this dal, they are family favourites too!

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