The unsung hero – Channa Dal -

The first thing that I learned to cook as a teenager was “Dal”. The fact that one had to just boil the lentils in water with some Salt and Turmeric was something my teenage brain could easily fathom and grasp. So Dal became a staple dish that I would make every day before my mother came from work.

When I moved to UK, which was my very first visit abroad, excessive planner that I was I carried a small suitcase full of Dals in different colors. Apart from the extra luggage that I had to pay for I also had to deal with the embarrassment of the customers officer at Heathrow laughing at me while looking at a suitcase full of “Dals’ and the first thing he told me was “Madam we do eat Dal here”.

IMG_1097Then when I moved to Australia I found our humble Dal was pretty popular in all Indian restaurants and even supermarket aisles. A lot of my friends knew how to make a basic Dal and seemed to relish it. There was also Dal used in Soups and stews and given a western twist which was equally delicious.

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Since this blog is all about Indian food, how can Dal not be an important feature in it? And trust me there are a lot of choices in Dal for you to pick from but today’s recipe is of the very subtle “Chana Dal”. It is the unsung hero in Dal’s and is what everyone knows as “Dal” when they talk about eating a Dal. Simple, plain, fuss free, it as subtle as any Dal can get.

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I love to sauté the Dal in a mixture of Onions and Tomatoes and then cook it in the pressure cooker. If you don’t have a pressure cooker you can cook the Dal separately and then sauté it. I have mentioned both the versions below. Trust me it is easy to make and is a recipe you would love to have in your kitty.

Chana Dal (Pressure cooker version, makes 40 minutes to make, serves 6- 8)

2 Coffee cups Chana Dal

1 large Onion finely chopped

2 medium Tomatoes finely chopped

1 tsp Ginger paste

1 tsp Garlic paste

1 tsp Red chilli powder

1 tsp Turmeric powder

1 tsp Garam masala powder

1 small Green Chilli finely chopped

1 tsp Cumin seeds

Freshly chopped green Coriander

2 tsp Vegetable Oil

Salt to taste

The Pressure Cooker method

Wash and Soak the Channa Dal in water for 2 – 3 hours.

In a pressure cooker add the Oil and heat. Now add the Cumin seeds, Green chillies, Ginger and Garlic paste and cook for 10 seconds. Now add the Onions and sauté till the Onions are translucent.

Then add the Tomatoes and cook till the Tomatoes have gone all mushy. Now drain all the water from the dal and mix it with the Tomato and Onion mixture.

Add all the masalas and some of the Green coriander and now on a low flame let the dal cook without adding any water. I do this to ensure that the Dal is coated in all the masalas.

Keep stirring after every 2 – 3 minutes to ensure the dal doesn’t stick to the pan. After 10 minutes add 3 cups of water and cover the lid and let it cook for 20 minutes.

Serve hot with Roti or Rice garnished with some more Green Coriander.

Cooking in a bowl

Wash and Soak the Channa Dal in water for 5 – 6 hours. Since we are cooking in a pressure cooker it is important to soak the Dal longer as it is a tough Dal to cook.

In a large pan add the Dal and 4 cups of water, Salt and Turmeric and cook till the Dal is done. Using a spatula remove the scum that gets collected on top of the Dal.

While the Dal is cooking in another bowl add the Oil and heat. Now add the Cumin seeds, Green chillies, Ginger and Garlic paste and cook for 10 seconds. Now add the Onions and sauté till the Onions are translucent.

Then add the Tomatoes and cook till the Tomatoes have gone all mushy. Now drain all the water from the Dal and mix it with the Tomato and Onion mixture.

Add all the masalas and some of the Green coriander and mix well. Using a strainer separate the Dal and the water but retain the water. Now add the Dal to the onion mixture and mix well for 10 minutes. Once the Dal is coated with the mixture add the water that we had kept aside (use as much as you want, I don’t like my Dal too watery). Let it cook for another 10 minutes before you turn the heat off.

Serve hot with Roti or Rice garnished with some more Green Coriander.