March 18, 2012

Chana Dhal or Yellow Split Peas

Please read welcome note first over there, on your right hand side ----->

As you may have noticed, as of late I've been sharing with you some vegetarian recipes. It is Lent and it is also good to come off meat every once in a while.

Tonight's recipe is from India and it is Dhal. Dhal basically means lentils. But tonight it's Chana Dhal which is yellow split peas .

I read over 20 recipes for Chana Dhal and each one gives you a different version. Some are soupy like, some are porridge like, some had certain spices, the others did was a bit of a headache, I must admit.

And since I had bought that bag of split peas a few months ago, I decided I was going to use them and do it my way.

Now online recipes have a tendency to lie a little in particular when it comes to cooking time. Some recipes said 30mn, others said 10mn...all Bullshit. If you are going to use Yellow Split Peas - Chana, you will need at least 1h.30 cooking time.

Wait, wait, you say over one hour?! Yes, a minimum of 1h30mn cooking time not preparation time. Preparation time is 10mn.

So on a Sunday, while you're sitting behind your computer, and you fancy something fragrant, tasty and spicy, indulge in Chana Dhal.

I followed the family tradition when it comes to grains. I soaked them overnight and it still took 1.h30mn and a bit. Maybe it was the kind of split peas I got and since I don't know what kind you have, let's play it safe. SOAK THEM in generous amount of water OVERNIGHT.

Let's get going shall we ?

For 2 you will need

- 200grams of Yellow Split peas or one cup of rinsed and soaked overnight in cold water
- 1 cinnamon stick
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 medium size onion finely chopped
- 2 cm of FRESH ginger
- 3 cloves of Garlic
- 1/2 green small chili pepper (if you don't like it too hot, use a quarter)
- 2 tsp of Turmeric
- 1 tsp of Cumin SEEDS
- 1/2 tsp of Garam Marsala
- 1/2 tsp of red chili flakes (optional)
- 1/2 to 1 tsp of salt
- 5 branches of FRESH coriander /cilantro, leaves only.
- 1 Tbs of cooking oil (I use sunflower)
- 1 Flat Tbs of butter  (the traditional recipe uses Ghee which I hate)

*** If you don't want to use butter, use 2 Tbs of cooking oil. But Butter does give it a special flavor. And if you're not anti Butter in cooking, then discard cooking oil and use 2 TBS of Butter (which is too rancid for me) So I opted for the mix of cooking oil and butter.


- drain your soaked peas, rinse them again, place them in saucepan and add ONE liter of cold water
- bring to boil on high heat, while it is boiling, remove the white froth (important)
- then add the cinnamon stick (do not break it, you will find out why later), plus bay leaves plus GRATED ginger.
- let it boil for a couple of minutes, turn down heat to medium, partially cover, and leave it to cook until real tender. Patience because this is the time consuming bit. You can always add a little more water if you feel it's drying out, hence importance of keeping it on medium to low fire.
-  keep an eye and stir occasionally

Once your peas are cooked or about to be totally cooked start your Tarka. Tarka is basically the spice mix, we call it in Arabic Tatbileh, in India it's called Tarka.

- In a non stick frying pan, heat the cooking oil plus butter (or whatever option you settled for ***) and fry your chopped onions until soft and slightly golden, keep heat medium
- add your crushed garlic, chopped green chili and fry for one more minute
- add your turmeric, cumin seeds, red chili flakes, garam marsala  and salt and stir until you smell the fragrance of the spices. It will look like a thick paste
- remove the cinnamon stick and bay leaves from peas.
- add your Tarka paste to the peas (you can always add a little more water if necessary)
- stir well and leave it to cook for a few minutes so the peas can absorb all the flavor.
- Serve hot and top with chopped cilantro leaves.

Serve with Naan, Chapatis or Rice.

Since I had no Naan or Chapatis I used Arabic bread and gave it a Naan Twist.

Brush Arabic bread with a mix of olive oil and black cumin seeds and heat in oven. If you have some of the olive oil/black seeds mix left, add it to a cucumber yogurt salad - it goes well with the Dhal and is delicious.
Cucumber yogurt salad is basically small diced cucumber in yogurt.

Et voilà .

Enjoy !