Dal is the Hindi word for an array of split pulses, in particular lentils, as well as, this type of preparation of legumes. Dal Bukhara is made with black lentils and is supposed to be slow-cooked overnight in a tandoori oven with lots of butter and cream. In this version, I’ve simplified the cooking process and substituted the butter and cream with coconut milk that contains healthy fats, which will still give the Dal a luxurious creamy texture. Lentils are a good source of protein, are nutrient-dense, and high in fibre.
SERVES 6-8 TOTAL TIME APPROX. 2 HOURS
Use organic ingredients when possible
2 cups whole black lentils (beluga lentils) – if can’t find black lentils, can substitute with brown lentils
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
4 cups cold water, for cooking the lentils
3 tbsp avocado oil
1 medium onion, diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced or finely grated
1-inch piece of ginger, finely grated
2 tsp good-quality garam masala spice blend
¼ to ½ tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp turmeric powder
1 can (156mL) tomato paste
1 tsp sea salt
1 ½ cups water
8 tbsp full-fat organic coconut milk
1 cup cooked white or red kidney beans (optional – for an added creamy texture)
Handful of chopped fresh cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish (optional)
Rinse and pick over the lentils, then place them in a large oven-safe pot along with the cinnamon sticks and the bay leaves, and cover with the cold water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low and simmer for between 20-30 minutes. Check periodically and top up with hot water if needed. The lentils are cooked when they are soft, but just about holding their shape. Drain, remove the cinnamon and bay leaves, and set aside.
Rinse out the pot and place back on the stove at medium heat. Add the avocado oil, onion, garlic, and ginger. Sauté until soft, about 5-8 minutes. Move the veggies to one side of the pot and add the garam masala, cayenne pepper, and turmeric to the empty section, stirring a bit to release the flavours. Add the tomato paste and stir well, using a little water to loosen the paste if it’s too thick. Mix everything together and add 1 ½ cups water and coconut milk. Cook for about 5-10 minutes. Stir in the lentils, cooked beans, and sea salt, adding a little more water if the dal is too thick.
Cover and place the pot in a preheated 300-degree F oven for about 1 hour. Check and stir periodically, so that the lentils don’t stick to the bottom of the pot (add more hot water if too thick).
Once done, remove from the oven and mash some of the lentils and beans while stirring. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to purée the dal until desired consistency is reached. Stir in the chopped fresh cilantro, if using. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired (adding more cayenne pepper or sea salt if required).
Garnish the Dal Bukhara with cilantro leaves and serve with rice or whole wheat naan and a thinly sliced red onion and cucumber salad. If you prefer to go grain-free, serve the dal alongside a vitamin D rich fish, like wild trout or salmon. Dal leftovers will keep covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 1 month. If freezing, don’t add the coconut milk or cilantro before freezing, you can add it just after reheating.
Inspired by recipe from Veg Recipes of India blog. Photo courtesy of Veg Recipes of India.