Chana Dal

It’s that time of year again, time to tighten the purse strings and reduce the waistlines. But it’s not all bad news because this week’s dish fits the bill, frugal and low fat but crucially for me, still absolutely jam packed with flavour. It’s also very versatile and can be changed to suit tastes and palates – for the days you are looking for something really spicy and those times when you are looking for a more delicate spice, almost akin to a warming lentil or split pea soup. In fact, cooking the split chickpeas is not very far removed from making lentil soup, the difference being that while the flavour in the soup is slow cooked from simmering stock and ham bones, the seasoning in the dal is all added at the end from the ‘fry’ or ‘tarka’-  a fantastic way to add flavour as it’s fresh and sizzling hot. Ensure that when making your ‘tarka’ you take time to stir and tend to it because when you can smell and hear what’s going on in your pan the results are always better.

Chana dal is great as a side dish with other curries and chutneys but I like it best served as it is here, with some fresh hot potato parathas and a chopped tomato and shallot salad. Who knew January could be so tasty? Enjoy.



The Method

serves 4

Chana Dal
250g split yellow peas (chana dal), rinsed until the water runs clear
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 small onion, chopped
3 green or red birds eye chillies, chopped
thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic, peeled
3 tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground coriander
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
small bunch fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 lemon

1 spring onion, chopped
4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 carrot, grated
50g pomegranate seeds
small bunch fresh coriander, chopped
1 banana shallot, sliced into rings
1 lemon

Method – Chana Dal
1. Place the lentils and 1ltr of water into a pan, add 1tsp turmeric and bring to the boil. Skim off any froth that collects then simmer, stirring regularly for 35-40 minutes or until the lentils are tender, add more water if required.
2. Once the lentils are cooked, remove from heat and stir well. Leave to cool and thicken.
3. In another pan heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the onion, chillies and ginger and fry for 4-5 minutes, or until golden-brown.
4. Add the cumin, turmeric, garam masala and ground coriander. Blitz the garlic and tomatoes together then add to the pan and stir to combine.
5. Simmer over a medium flame for 10-15 minutes, stirring so as not to catch, season to taste with salt and pepper then stir into lentils.
6. Sprinkle with chopped coriander finish with a skoosh of lemon and serve with paratha and salad.

Method – Salad
Combine all salad ingredients in a bowl, season to taste and finish with a skoosh of lemon juice.