Chana dal (Bengal gram lentils) in a gloriously spiced curry, the kind one describes with epithets like "meal fit for a king".
- Chana Dal ((Bengal gram lentils) – 1 cup
- Tomatoes – 2
- Ginger – 1/2 inch stick
- Garlic – 4 fat cloves
- Green chili – 1
- Coriander powder – 1/2 teaspoon
- Cumin powder – 1/2 teaspoon
- Red chili powder – 1/2 teaspoon
- Amchoor (dried mango) powder – 1/3 teaspoon
- Fenugreek powder – a pinch
- Fennel powder – a pinch
- Black pepper powder – a pinch
- Turmeric powder – a pinch
- Salt – to taste
- Bay leaf – 1
- Cloves – 3
- Cardamom – 1
- Cinnamon stick – 1/2 inch
- Raisins – 1 tablespoon
- Ghee – 2 teaspoons
- Fresh coriander leaves – a few sprigs
- Fresh lemon juice – 1 teaspoon, adjust to taste
Wash chana dal well in a few changes of water till the water runs clear. Soak in 2 cups of water for an hour. Drain.
Chop tomatoes. Crush garlic, ginger and green chili into paste.
Heat ghee in a pressure cooker. [Be careful – ghee burns easily, do not let it smoke.] Add cloves, cardamom and bay leaf to hot ghee. Stir and add garlic, ginger and green chili paste. When the spice paste takes on a golden hue, add chopped tomatoes, salt, and all the dry masala powders: coriander, cumin, red chili, amchoor, fenugreek, fennel, black pepper, turmeric. Cook on medium heat for 5-6 minutes, or till the masala turns fragrant and the tomatoes mushy.
Add washed and drained chana dal to the spiced tomato masala and cook for another 5-6 minutes. Stir regularly so that the dal does not stick to the bottom of the cooker.
Add raisins and 1.5 cups of water, and bring the dal to a boil. Put on the lid of the pressure cooker, let it whistle, then lower the heat and cook for another 3 whistles.
Let the pressure cooker stand and release pressure naturally. Open the lid and smash the dal lightly. Add more water if you want the consistency runnier, adjust salt, and bring to another boil. Stir in fresh lemon juice and chopped fresh coriander leaves.
Raisins add a subtle hint of sweetness to the dal – as they get pressure-cooked, they burst open and infuse the curry with their flavor. Even if you don’t like your dals sweet, do give raisins in this recipe a try.
Feel free to adjust the spice mix proportions to your taste.