Dal bukhara is a velvety smooth and creamy tomato based lentil dish that originated in Delhi in northern India. Technically, dal bukhara is made with urad lentils but you can also use black lentils. The secret to a perfect dal is to slow cook it. In India, dal bukhara is made in a tandoori oven and cooked over a wood fire to make it smoky.
That cooking technique is not possible in my kitchen. I slow cook the dal in the oven for a couple of hours until it has a creamy texture. You may also choose to cook the dal in a slow cooker to further expedite the process.
The black lentils are precooked with cinnamon sticks and bay leaves.
Next a spice mixture is made with cumin, coriander, cardamon, cinnamon, chili powder, hot dried chilis, fennel and star anise. The spices are toasted until fragrant, then ground with either a mortar and pestle or a spice mill.
After the spices are ground, make the masala by slow cooking onions, garlic and ginger in ghee or clarified butter. Once the onions are wilted and soft, add the spice mixture and the tomato paste. At this point you can stir in the cooked lentils and other spices. You can also continue to add water to the mixture to thin the dal so it does not become too thick. The addition of plain Greek yogurt to the dal, makes it creamier and imparts a slightly tangy flavor.
I cover the pot with foil and place the lid on the pot over the foil to insure a tight closure for cooking. Place the oven proof pot in the oven at 300 and cook for 1.5-2 hours.
After removing the dal bukhara from the oven, allow it to briefly rest for about 10 minutes. Garnish each serving with chopped cilantro and serve with rice and naan.