Punjabi Chana Dal

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This recipe brought back memories of college. Almost every weekend, when our dorm was out of groceries, we would go to a little Indian restaurant, tucked away on a side street in the Philippines. For a couple dollars, we would stuff ourselves on chana dal, chicken masala, curried cauliflower, naan bread, and fish tikka. Mmmmmm! I love Indian almost as much as I love Thai! Unfortunately for me, although Mr. HHF could eat Mexican every single day, he’s much pickier about Indian. This recipe passed his inspection though! You could make it with regular red or brown lentils, but we both thought the chana dal lentils were creamier. I wish I had added cauliflower towards the end, so I will let you know when you could add cauliflower to the recipe. PLEASE don’t let the amount of spices deter you (I know it looks like a lot of work)….it’s worth it, I promise. We thought it was yummier the next day once the spices had time to meld. Also, Mr. HHF added sour cream to his the 2nd time we had it and liked this even better!

Serves: 2 with leftovers

8/10 We both thought it could be a solid nine if I had added some cauliflower and had cooked the lentils just a little longer….we like mushy beans. After one bite, our toddler rated the recipe as 1/10. He was NOT a fan…but he has texture issues with beans. Our 6 month old loved it and ate about half a cup of the lentils once I rinsed off most of the spices.

Prep and cook time: I was making spiced cauliflower and naan bread while preparing the chana dal….I think it all took about an hour and 15 minutes. If you were just making the chana dal, I think it would only take 45-50 minutes depending on how long you soaked your beans and how quickly they cooked.

Adapted from: Masala Chana Dal and Punjabi Chana Dal

Ingredients:

1 1/4 cup chana dal or lentils

1 onion

2 tablespoons butter or oil (I used oil to make this dairy free)

1 inch cinnamon stick

1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds or powder (I used powder)

1 tablespoon garlic powder (or 1/2 tablespoon fresh garlic, minced)

1 teaspoon chili powder

1/2 teaspoon tumeric

1 teaspoon coriander powder

4-5 thinly sliced ginger rounds

1 teaspoon garam masala

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 pinch cloves

1 bay leaf

1 cup grated juicy tomato (or canned diced tomato)

4-5 cups of water

1 small steak (sizzler, sirloin, etc.) optional

Fresh cilantro, lemon juice, sour cream or plain yogurt to garnish

Instructions:

1. Rinse chana dal until the water runs clear. Then let them soak for at least 30 minutes. 1-2 hours would be better.

I used these lentils….I know you can get them cheaper in other brands, but I just wanted to try them to see if we would like them, and we do!

2. Heat oil in the pan and add the cumin and cinnamon stick. Let them sizzle a minute or two while you chop the onion. Add the onion.

3. While the onion is cooking (stir occasionally), mix together the garlic, chili powder, tumeric, coriander, garam masala, cloves, bay leaf, pepper, and salt.

4. Add the grated tomato or canned tomato.

5. When the onions are nicely browned, add the spices and tomato to them. Cook on high heat, stirring frequently for 3-5 minutes until water is mostly evaporated.

6. Add the drained lentils and continue to cook on medium high heat, stirring frequently, for another 6-8 minutes.

7. Add 4-5 cups of water (depending on how soupy you want it to be). Add the ginger slices. Cover and simmer for 30-45 minutes. The lentils should be soft, but not completely mush. At this point, Mr. HHF realized there would be no meat in this recipe. This was NOT ok. So I quickly defrosted a small steak. and added it….the next two steps are optional. ALSO, at this point, I wish I had added a cup or two of chopped cauliflower.

8. Sprinkle salt, pepper, and lemon juice on the steak. Cook on high heat for 2-3 minutes each side until nicely browned.

9. Slice thinly against the grain. Add slices to the soup a minute or two before you are ready to remove soup from the heat.

10. Adjust spices according to taste. I ended up adding more salt, chili powder, garam masala, and garlic powder. Serve hot with cilantro, lemon juice, naan or a crusty bread or rice.

Sorry about the poor quality of this picture….it really does look much yummier than this. It had gotten dark by the time the soup was done, and I was in a hurry to snap a picture and eat! I’ll be posting recipes for the naan and the roasted cauliflower soon!

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