Monday, November 17, 2008

Chana Dhal (Indian Lentils)

News alert: Dogs aren't really that cute. Especially if they're rascally dachshunds that have learned to jump up on your garbage bin and crawl across the counter to munch on half a pack of raw chorizo. They are NOT cute that way.

Indian food is one of the three staple cuisines I grew up with in Malaysia. Weekends were usually spend watching live football (to be incorrectly termed: Soccer) broadcasts at 3am whilst chomping on a traditional roadside Indian dish of dhal and 'roti'. That was of course, complemented by mugs and mugs of milky tea that were guaranteed to give you a tummy-ache hours later.

For some reason, the change of season has brought back rather strong urges for both football and dhal with 'roti'. I recently found out that the Seattle Sounders FC have signed on my once-upon-a-time favourite Arsenal player Freddie Ljungberg as the distinguished player for the club. So I figure I'll get an early headstart on the food part of the soccer night outs.

Dhal is usually made with ghee, a kind of shortening. I used vegetable buillion cubes and a small amount of vegetable oil instead to make this a healthy dish that you can serve with some store bought naan and a cup of milky chai. It works wonderful on a cold day, and lends a subtle spicyness to offset the chill factor.

Chana Dhal (Indian Lentils)
Serves 4

1 1/2 cups yellow split peas
3 cups water
2 big green chilis (Serrano or Hot Cherry works fine)
1 large tomato, cubed
1 medium onion
1 clove garlic
4 slices fresh ginger
2 tsp Garam Masala
2 tsp curry powder
2 tsp black mustard seed
1/2 cube vegetable buillion
Pinch of Red pepper flakes
Handful fresh parsley leaves
Salt to taste

Note: If your lentils are still tough, and you would like it to be softer - add in 1 heap teaspoon of baking powder. Likewise, you can use an immersion blender to pulse the lentils.

Soak the lentils in 4 cups of water for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.

In a big pot, bring the lentils, water and a teaspoon of salt to a boil. Cover and simmer for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, uncover and stir in the Garam Masala and curry powder. Let the pot remain simmering, uncovered.

In a separate frying pan, heat two tablespoons of vegetable oil and fry the garlic, onions, ginger, tomatoes, chili and black mustard seeds until fragrant, about 7 minutes.

Stir in the fried tomato mixture, red pepper flakes and vegetable buillion cube into the lentils and let it simmer for another 5 minutes until the lentils are thick. Remove the sliced ginger. Season with salt to taste. Serve garnish with parsley leaves.


Anonymous said...

I love making dhal and yours sounds better than mine so I can't wait to try it! I've always used store-bought ghee from Whole Foods, but I've been hearing that people have mixed feelings about it. Any thoughts? Thanks, Amanda

Amanda said...

Caviar and Codfish: Hi Robin. Well, I haven't tried the Whole Foods ghee - I've basically just used stuff from my local Indian grocer -- ghee is just essentially clarified butter, so if you just use regular butter instead of buying a tub at Whole Paycheck, that would work equally well.

Anonymous said...

Dal can be made from one hundred different lentils/ pulses/chickpeas/beans and in thousands of ways. It may be made with oil or ghee or no fat. Butter burns and hence it is not good for frying spices, it is sometimes added as a dollop while eating. Fresh white butte,r minus the colors added in the west, is considered good. Butter is not good for frying spices as it burns quickly, ghee does not. Vegans avoid ghee for obvious reasons. However one could use ghee made by America's Hare Krishnas: they treat their animals very kindly and know each one by name.
Swapna Vora

Anonymous said...

mmmm...thanks for the recipe!! i seldom have dhal but this looks too great to miss out on ;)

gaga said...

Yum. I've never made my own dahl and yours looks absolutely inspiring. Maybe I'll give it a try some time, especially since I'm trying to learn more about Indian food lately.