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Chana dahl is actually a small split chickpea, not a lentil at all. It has a nutty texture and earthy flavor that blends beautifully with Indian spices. It has a very low glycemic index making it a fantastic food if you are watching your weight or have diabetes.
There are countless ways to make a delicious dahl and over the years I have experimented with many variations on the theme. Here is my current favourite recipe, designed through trial and error, but assured by my husband dearest that it is a real winner. This version is a spicy dahl so feel free to decrease the chili if you prefer it milder.
Before starting, soak 500g of chana dahl for 2 to 3 hours in cold water and then rinse.
Sautee a chopped large onion in olive oil with 2 teaspoons of chopped garlic until soft and starting to brown. Add the following spices and continue to cook for another minute (keep stirring): 2 teaspoons garam masala, 2 teaspoons madras curry powder, 1 teaspoon turmeric and 2 teaspoons of chopped chili.
Add 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (420g) and mix through the onion and spices to form a paste. Stir in the chana dahl and add 1 tin of light coconut milk (375ml) and the same amount of water. I use evaporated light coconut milk; it adds lots of flavor but with much less fat. Simmer gently without a lid until the dahl is softened and cooked through. Add more water a little at a time if needed.
Towards the end of the cooking process add a handful of chopped coriander leaves and a generous dash of lemon juice. Serve with rice, raita (Black Swan light tzatziki works a treat as raita) and more coriander.
If you have any left, the dahl keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days and the flavours just seem to get better. It will make a perfect lunch or quick and easy dinner the next day, if it lasts that long. Enjoy!
500g chana dahl
2 tsp chopped garlic
2 tsp garam masala
2 tsp madras curry powder
2 tsp chopped chili
1 tin light coconut milk
1 tin chopped tomatoes