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Forum Thread - Dal Makhani - without a pressure cooker

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Patrick, on 1/2/2010 01:38pm

Hi Mamta & all,

I recently had my first taste of dal makhani and am absolutely hooked! I'd love to try your recipe here, but I don't have a pressure cooker. Your recipe (and every other recipe I've seen) seems to suggest that a pressure cooker is essential for this tough lentil. Can you advise? Is it really possible to cook a good version of this without one? How long do you think it would take to cook in a cast-iron casserole in the oven?



Mamta, on 1/2/2010 06:03pm

Hello Patrick

Sorry for the delay in replying.

The reason why most Indian recipes will give pressure cooker time for cooking dals, beans, is that most India people own a pressure cooker, at least one, and very rarely cook dals without it. However, prior to 1950's, when the pressure cookers became widely available, all beans/dals were cooked on ordinary wood burning or charcoal stoves. My grandmother used to say that dal never tasted as good when cooked in a pressure cooker.

Anyway, you can bring it to boil it briskly on stove for at least 15 minutes*, and then simmer until soft and creamy. This takes around 2 hours. You need roughly 4 times water to the dal. You can cook it in a slow cooker too, but must first boil it briskly for 15 minutes.

*Kidney beans must be boiled briskly for 10-15 minutes to get rid of the toxin Phytohaemagglutnin, which can give you severe GI symptoms if beans are not cooked properly.


Patrick, on 1/2/2010 07:39pm

That's fantastic, thanks for replying Mamta. Should I soak the lentils and beans overnight?


Mamta, on 1/2/2010 09:03pm

No, a couple of hours soaking is usually enough for Dal makhani. If cooking chickpeas/kidney beans etc., you may consider soaking overnight.

Patrick, on 1/2/2010 09:06pm

Super. If you were cooking this in the oven, what would you set the oven to? 180C?

Mamta, on 2/2/2010 05:57am

Be careful about cooking it in the oven, dals bubble a lot while cooking. If it boils over, it will create an awful mess in the oven. I would cook it on stove, where an eye can be kept on it as it boils/simmers.

Patrick, on 2/2/2010 09:49am

Ok, thanks for the tip. I'll let you know how I go.

Incidentally, I asked the waiter who served me the dal how it was cooked. I was surprised to learn that the cream and butter were cooked with the lentils.

phil, on 3/2/2010 02:25pm

I didn't know that most Indian people owned a pressur cooker. Must get one. We have a British friend who takes his pressure cooker on hiliday with him. When he comes down here from Holland in the summer, he cooks a lovely lamb curry in it: the lamb becomes very tender indeed, and the fat dissolves into the sauce.

Fiona , on 15/2/2020 08:18am

I know this is an old post but thank you so much. I have just returned from a long visit to India and so want to make dal but have no pressure I can..yeah

Mamta, on 15/2/2020 10:30pm

Please come back and tell us how it came out.


Helen Bach, on 17/2/2020 03:49pm

The use of pressure cookers in India has more to do with saving fuel than any culinary benefit. If I may indulge in a little more science, Mamta, ?

There is a bit of science which says that chemical reaction times halve for a 10?C increase in temperature. Inside a pressure cooker, temperatures (for water-based media) rise to 121?C at 15psi pressure. So for a four fold increase in reaction rate, cooking times will be four times faster, thus reducing fuel consumption significantly.

Although I cook rajma, channa and dhals, I use tins of, they don't seem to taste any different to dried versions.

Mamta, on 18/2/2020 09:52pm

Thank you for that Helen. Yes, you are right of course. My father used to explain the science behind various cooking/preserving practices to our mother and us, he was a chemist as technologist. You explaining things reminds me of him .

Use of pressure cooker not only saves fuel, it saves a lot of time as well.

I do use tinned kidney beans and chickpeas in some recipes, when cooking for just the two of us. But for bigger numbers, I still use the dry versions. I don’t like tinned dals, always cook fresh from a packet. But I don’t have any airs about using tinned anything. If it suits you and you like the taste, go for it. I use tinned tomatoes all the time.


Helen Bach, on 20/2/2020 02:12pm

Thanks Mamta. I only use dhal from the packet, and never wash it.

Re: tinned tomatoes. They have been cooked, so are not the same as raw. When I cooked in India, I could not find tinned toms, and the gravy/sauce did not taste the same as in the UK with tinned toms. Now I remember, the cream was different as well, not sweet at all.

So it's not so easy transferring recipes from one country to another, where ingredients can be different, and substitutes don't appear to work.

Mamta, on 24/2/2020 07:33pm

Well, if you can’t find an ingredient where you are, you have got to use the best alternative. The dish is definitely not the same. Different, but still nice??.


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