Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A Simple Chana Dhal

This Simple Chana Dhal has become a new favourite in our household and I look forward to making it again and again.  Partly because it is so healthy you wouldn't believe and also because it is so simple that the second time I made it I only needed to consult the recipe to confirm which spices to add.  The method is dead easy, there's no need for scrutinising the recipe which means its very quick (even quicker with a pressure cooker which is how most Indians cook their dhals) which I LOVE on a weeknight and partly because it is so versatile.  Add more liquid for a soupy consistency or less for a firm texture, add spinach or some other vegetables or leave it simple as I have - either way its delicious.  It's traditional to serve dhal with rice and if you're having a vegetarian meal this means that you get all the protein you need but I have served it with salad and it was lovely.

First things first - chana dhal - what is it exactly?    Well dhal is a generic term for the pulses (dried beans, lentils, split peas etc.) that Indians use to make soups and stews and it also refers to the stews and soups themselves. Chana dhal is a variety of chickpea that has had its skin removed and been split.  So therefore chana dhal is the ingredient and also the name of the dish produced.

The great thing about chana dhal which is why, when I saw it I bought it, is that it has an extremely low glycemic index - about 8 on a scale of 100 - which is very low.  It also packs a protein punch with about 25 gms per 100 grams of dried chana dhal and it has a lot of fiber in it and its very low fat.  What else could you ask for?

Simple Chana Dhal

1 1/2 cups split dried chana dhal, soaked
6 cups water (including 1 cup of stock is optional but if you use some stock don't add salt as well)
2 tablespoons turmeric

2 minced cloves garlic
1 tablespoon garam masala
2 teaspoons cumin
2 teaspoons mustard powder
1 teaspoon powdered ginger
1 teaspoon red chilli powder

3 tablespoons lime juice
salt and black pepper to taste
a drizzle of olive oil

This step is optional - I place the dhal in a bowl of hot water and soak it overnight or for several hours.  Its not necessary but it speeds up the cooking time to soften it beforehand.  The whole dish takes about 45 mins and I would say about a third of the time if you use a pressure cooker.  Also, I prefer to use 5 cups of water and 1 cup of vegetable stock which makes if very flavourful but that's only optional.

Put the dhal and water in a big pot with turmeric and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until tender. Once the dhal is tender see if its the desired consistency and either drain some liquid out or add some.

In a small non-stick fry pan, drizzle some olive oil and add the garlic. Sautee the garlic for about two minutes over medium heat. Add all the other spices except the black pepper and chilli powder and fry for about a minute, stirring vigorously. Add the chilli, stir quickly, then take the skillet off the heat and dump the mix into the pot

Stir well. Taste. Add the lime juice and the black pepper to taste.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

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