I have got to love my life surrounded with little girls, candy trees, unicorns and … and also some masala chana dal.
Lentils always have been and always will be the comfort food. The meaty, nutty chana dal is now competing with the red lentils in our home. The masoor or the red lentils had been the popular one, but now that my little one has changed her loyalties from red lentils to chana dal, we have been having this as often as the red lentils.
We call her the perpetual motion machine.
She is petite, picky and very silly, and will eat only a couple of tablespoon of the dal;
yet I make this for her just so she eats – something.
Here’s her split second of quiet, then she is up and spinning again.
The 6 year old decided to draw a candy tree when she was told to draw the life cycle of a tree for homework. And once she decides on something, I have a tough time to lead her out of it.
Her “Unique” tree from her school book…
Finally after a little fun talk (and a big sigh of relief on my part), she decided on a lemon tree and the candy tree was left alone only for home. The imagination of children is what makes their world so different from ours. And everyday I fear that the childhood in them is slipping away. Once before she had once asked me if we could go to fantasy land. When I asked her why she wanted to visit fantasy land she told me that her preschool teacher told her that Unicorns (her favorite animal) are not real and they live in fantasy land I could not let her down. I told her may be some day we will go there, praying that this little magic stays with her forever. I know against my wish that she will soon discover the difference between the real and the fantasy world and there will be no visit! But by then, hopefully she forgets she ever wanted to visit the fantasy land.
Her latest obsession is chana dal, and I guess I will keep making it until this healthy obsession/fascination lasts.
The chana dal has a lovely aroma and absorbs the flavors of the spices really well. Once it starts cooking and getting infused with the masala (the spice mix), you will breathe in the air with pleasure. And because of the hard to mess up texture unlike most other lentils, this is cooked by braising the lentils with the spice mix for a little while, just as you would do to with the meat. The whole spices and the fresh ginger adds a beautiful subtle flavor to this dish.
The Spring is here and so is the spring break. We have been looking forward to the break for a while and now that it is here I am starting to panic that it is going to be over soon. I will be away from the blog and anything related to the virtual world for a few days. We have plans to relax and rejuvenate and slow down. Are you having a spring break too?
Masala Chana Dal – Spiced Split Grams
Ingredients: (serves 4-6 as a side)
- 1 + 1/4 cup chana dal/hulled & split bengal gram
- 2 tablespoon ghee or oil
- 1 green cardamom
- 1 inch cinnamon stick
- 1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
- a generous pinch of hing/asafoetida *
- 1/2 cup chopped red onion
- 1 tablespoon chili garlic paste Or (3/4 tablespoon garlic paste + 1 teaspoon red chili powder)
- 4 tablespoon tomato paste + 3/4 cup water or 1 cup grated fresh juicy tomato
- salt to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
- 1 teaspoon coriander powder
- 1 teaspoon red chili powder (optional)
- 1 teaspoon slivered fresh ginger, (cut into paper thin slices after peeling the ginger)
- fresh cilantro/coriander + some thinly sliced green chili pepper for garnish
- fresh lemon juice to finish it off right before serving
* Note: If you do not find the asafoetida, it is okay to do without it.
Any other kind of lentils may be made into “Masala Lentils” in the same way.
Wash lentils until water runs clear. Soak in enough water to cover the lentils. This is an optional thing to do, but the lentils will cook faster if they are soaked.
Heat oil in a deep saucepan or pressure cooker if you will use one. Add the cardamom and the cinnamon sticks. When they just start to sizzle add the cumin seeds and the hing/asafoetida. When the cumin sizzles and the hing is fragrant add the chopped onion and cook in high heat until the onion starts to get golden on the edges and starts getting clear.
Combine chili garlic paste, salt, coriander powder, turmeric and chili powder if you are using with the tomato paste and 3/4 cup of water (or grated tomato). Add the mix to the pan and cook on high heat while occasionally scraping the bottom of the pan so it does not stick. Cook for 3-5 minutes in medium to high heat, making sure the mix at the bottom of the pan does not start to burn. So give it a stir once in a while. When the oil starts to separate and most of the water has evaporated reducing the mix, drain the lentils and add it to the pan. Toss everything well and cook for 6-8 minutes in medium heat stirring and scraping frequently, allowing the spice mix to coat and infuse the lentils.
Add 4-5 cups of water (depending in how soupy you want the lentils to be), cover and cook (or cook in the pressure cooker or slow cooker) until the lentils are tender but not mushed. They should still be whole and have a tender but good bite to it. (Adjust water to as dry or as soupy as you would want it. )
When cooked, uncover and add the fresh ginger, cilantro, chili pepper and fresh lemon juice.
Serve hot with rice or flat bread or any crusty bread.
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: approx. an hour without pressure cooker & 15 minutes cooked in a pressure cooker
Serves: 4-6 as a side
Serving suggestions: as a side or as a soup