The shorter, cooler days of November give me the opportunity to indulge my bean and lentil obsession. Beans and lentils grow where the climate is warm and sunny yet I’m inclined to eat them more often when it’s cold. A bowl of thick, creamy lentils or beans is an inexpensive source of protein which will slowly release energy to fuel your body and comfort your soul.
Dal Markhani is a recipe from the north of India, which uses both lentils and beans served in a sauce of fragrant spices. Markhani is a sauce of butter, tomato and cream but in order to slot this recipe into my ‘live to be one hundred’ recipes file I have used coconut milk and vegetable ghee/oil instead of the dairy but feel free to swop it back.
The original recipe also uses black urad dal, a type of black mung bean, which takes an overnight soaking and then three or for hours to cook. Healthy as urad dal might be it’s not really in synch with our fast paced lives so they have been dumped in my recipe in favour of black beluga lentils, which are one of the gems of the lentil family. Black, round and robust they cook in 20-25 minutes and keep their shape whilst doing so. No mealy mass even if you forget them and decide to walk the dog whilst cooking.
There’s a fast version and a slow version for this dish, both have their merits but I’m going for the fast version and opening a can of beans. The lentils I cook from scratch.
1 large onion
50g vegetable ghee or oil
25g fresh ginger
3 cloves garlic
2 cardamom pods
2tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 can tomatoes
½ tsp salt
1 can kidney beans
200g beluga lentils
150mls coconut milk
chopped fresh coriander to serve
Put the lentils into a saucepan with three times the volume of water. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20-25 minutes, until the lentils are tender. Put aside.
Peel the onion then chop finely.
Heat a medium saucepan then add the vegetable ghee or oil and the onions. Cook on a medium heat without browning until they soften.
Peel and chop the ginger and garlic then stir into the onions. Bash the cardamom pods with the back of a wooden spoon so they crack open then add to the pot together with the cloves. Cook gently for a couple of minutes then add the ground coriander, ground cumin and turmeric. Stir and gently cook for a few minutes more then stir in the tomatoes and salt. Allow the sauce to come to the boil then simmer gently for 30 minutes.
Drain and rinse the kidney beans.
Add the beans, the beluga lentils and residual cooking liquid to the tomato sauce. Cook gently for 15-20 minutes. Stir in the garam masala and most of the coconut milk then taste . It’ll probably need a little more salt. If it’s too thick thin with a little water
Serve with chopped coriander and a swirl of coconut milk to garnish.
Eat with rice or mop up with naan bread.