Buttery black lentils

Buttery black lentils

Indian Food Made Easy
Vanessa Courtier

For an Indian, this dish is king of the lentil curries and is perhaps the most popular lentil dish in any Indian restaurant. Known as makhni dal, it is a rich, creamy and flavourful curry that everyone seems to love. These lentils take a long time to cook and can be quite heavy to digest, so this is a dish we eat sparingly and on special occasions, which adds to its enjoyment. The lentils would traditionally be cooked overnight over the barest flame so they cook evenly and perfectly, but they are well worth the wait. They are perfect with naan and raita and not much else is needed.


Quantity Ingredient
240g whole black lentils, picked through, washed and soaked for at least 3 hours
1 litre water
10g garlic, peeled
15g fresh ginger, peeled and halved lengthways
180g can of tomato puree
1/2-1 teaspoon red chilli powder
2 green chillies, left whole
salt, to taste
30g butter
1/2 onion, peeled and chopped
50ml single cream
1 teaspoon garam masala
handful fresh coriander, to garnish


  1. Drain the lentils, discarding their soaking water, and put in a large saucepan with the fresh water. Bring to a boil and then simmer, covered, for about 1 hour or until tender.
  2. Meanwhile, make a paste of the garlic and half the ginger. Finely slice the remaining ginger into long, fine shreds.
  3. When the lentils are tender, add the tomato puree, chilli powder, green chillies, salt and the garlic-ginger paste to the pan. Stir well and cook for another 30 minutes. Keep an eye on the pan and give it an occasional stir as the lentils have a tendency to settle on the base.
  4. Heat the butter in a pan over a low heat, add the onion and sliced ginger and cook for about 4–5 minutes until coloured. Stir into the lentils along with the single cream and garam masala. Cook for a further minute and serve garnished with fresh coriander.
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