As some of you may know I am a BIG dal fan. Huge in fact, I love the stuff, and I am always trying to convert the uninitiated. Dal is an Indian lentil soup, or porridge of sorts, that can vary in consistency depending on personal preference. There are so many varieties, using a wide range of lentils, that there is at least one to suit every palate. For the most part (some need soaking) they are quick and very easy to make. Once you have bought a few staple ingredients for your pantry, you will find that cooking dal is a very economical meal to cook and, for many in the Indian subcontinent, an essential source of inexpensive protein.
Cholar dal is also known as chana or yellow split lentil and it’s one of my personal favourites. It is absolutely delicious with delicate sweet undertones coming from the coconut and sultanas. I use desiccated coconut, however in India as coconuts are more readily available, they often use shavings of fresh coconut. I eat it for lunch or dinner, although out in India it is even served up for breakfast!
Unlike the red split lentil dal, which I spoke about in an earlier blog, you need to think a little ahead for this dal as the yellow split lentils need to soak for a number of hours. I always soak them over night, but if you check on the packet you will probably find that you can soak them in the morning and they will be ready to cook by the afternoon/evening.
This recipe is again from my Indian mother-in-law. I will try and introduce you to a wide range of dals over the weeks and months ahead so that you have a full repertoire of dals on tap. Healthy, economical and easy to make, but most of all darn TASTY – what more could you want?
Whilst it is a dish in itself, I often accompany it with either some rice or a few luchi. Today I will show you how to make luchi.
500g of yellow split peas, soak overnight
water, to cover the yellow split peas
1 tbsp of mustard oil/sunflower oil
1 tsp panch phoron
3 bay leaves
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp chilli powder (more if you prefer it hot)
1 tsp of ghee/butter (optional)
2 tsp of sugar
1 tsp salt
2 tsp of desiccated coconut
1. Soak the yellow split peas in water overnight or for the required time stated on the packet. You will need to put enough water so that they completely cover the lentils with an extra half an inch of water on top.
2. After soaking, add some new water if necessary so that they completely cover the yellow split peas. Boil them until they are soft. This will take approximately 35 minutes. You will know they are soft when you are able to squeeze them easily between your fore finger and thumb.
3. In a separate pan, heat up some mustard oil until it is hot. Then add the panch phoron, bay leaves, turmeric, chilli powder, sultanas salt and sugar.
4. After about 20 seconds then add a couple of spoonfuls of the yellow spilt peas and stir into the pan. Then transfer all of the contents of the pan into the original pan with the cooked yellow split peas and stir in thoroughly.
5. Now add the ghee/butter, but if you are wanting a slightly healthy version of this dish then just omit this part. Sprinkle the desiccated coconut over the top of the dal and let it simmer for a few minutes.
So now on to preparing the luchi. They are great fun to make and big A and little Z love to eat them with their dal.
makes about 6
100g plain flour
2 tsp margarine/butter
2 tbsp of oil
pinch of salt
approx 30ml of warm water
1. Using your hands mix the butter with the flour and a pinch of salt. Add two tablespoon of oil and then slowly add the warm water until the mixture binds together. Add the water gradually as you do not want it to be too sticky.
2. Once it has come together in a ball, kneed it for a few minutes. Then split the dough into small balls ready to roll with a rolling pin. If you are planning on cooking these later in the day, wrap them in cling film and leave in the fridge.
3. Roll the small dough balls into thin circles. Using a deep pan heat some oil, when it is very hot (it will begin to bubble) place one dough circle and gentle keep it moving with a fork. Gently patting and moving it around will help it puff up. After about 30 seconds turn over the luchi and let it cook for a further 30 seconds. If your oil is not hot enough it may take a little longer.
4. Take out of the pan and place on some kitchen roll. Repeat until all the dough circles have been cooked. If you find your luchi have not risen as you had expected try putting a little more oil with the flour when making the dough to begin with.
5. Serve warm with your cholar dal.
At celebrations in Kolkata, cholar dal and luchi are often served on banana leaves due to the large numbers at the gatherings. Easy to acquire and dispose of they are the perfect ‘plate’s to serve this meal to guests. Meat and fish dishes would also accompany such a banquet and I will show you how to make these soon.