Are yellow split peas chana, or something else? I always thought chana meant chickpeas, so I’ve gone with the full English description, but I’m happy to be corrected. Having read several recipes for dal, I took inspiration from Madhur Jaffrey’s seminal work “Indian Cookery” for the techniques and then just used the spices and ingredients we had in the cupboard.
- 250g yellow split peas
- 1 litre water
- 1 tablespoon ghee (clarified butter), or neutral vegetable oil if you want it vegan
- 1 tablespoon garam masala
- 1 dessertspoon lazy chili
- 1 dessertspoon lazy garlic
- 1 dessertspoon lazy ginger
- 1 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds or cumin seeds
- 1 small onion or 2 banana shallots, cut in half and chopped into thin half-moon slices
- Salt to taste
Rinse the split peas well in cold water, then put in a saucepan and cover with 1 litre of cold water. This will seem way too much, but you’ll be surprised at how much the peas absorb as they cook. I don’t put salt in the water as it sometimes makes the peas tough, and you want them to be mushy and creamy. Bring to the boil and simmer for about an hour on a low heat. If it looks like the water is all absorbed, add a bit more. Stir it occasionally and, if you’re feeling energetic, mush the split peas against the side of the pan as they break up.
Take the split peas off the heat and leave to one side. In a frying pan, heat up the ghee or oil and add the mustard or cumin seeds and move them about until they start to pop. Then turn down the heat a bit, and add all the other ingredients except the salt. Stir it all about and let the onions/shallots cook until they are soft and slightly catching at the edges. Add the split peas to the frying pan and stir through the onion/shallot mixture, until the mixture is bubbling. Add salt to taste. If it looks too dry and solid, add a couple of spoonfuls of boiling water. It should be a soothing, creamy, slightly sloppy mixture. Serve it hot.
This dal works as an accompaniment to other curry dishes, and if you use neutral vegetable oil it is vegan. It becomes a complete meal if you serve it with rice and a hard boiled egg. If you find you have some left over, it keeps well in the fridge for a few days in a covered container. You may need to add more water when you reheat it to get the creamy texture back.