Split Bengal Gram or Chana Dal is a common lentil in the Indian Household. It is usually used in its ground form as a flour for making a variety of products. In my house, split Bengal gram is used for making a sweet dish called Puran-polis – a sweet roti stuffed flatbread made with Bengal gram and jaggery. But I did not know any other way in which I could use this lentil in my cooking. I wanted to find a dish which was easy to make, delicious and off course healthy 🙂 . I try to make my recipes wholesome and full of nutrients. They need not always be low in calorie content but they are definitely nutritious and most of them have a high protein content.
The best way I like eat my lentils is as a Dal/ stew with flatbreads or rice. So the next step was to look for a recipe for Bengal Gram which can be incorporated in weekly cooking ritual. Also the best part here is Bengal Gram is packed with protein, which means those on a high protein diet can opt for this lentil when they want a break from meat. Lentils are also vegan…so this is a perfect vegan meal choice.
The catch here is to add sufficient flavor to the Split Bengal Gram because the lentil itself is a bit bland in taste and if not cooked thoroughly it will taste undercooked and have a powder-like texture. To ensure that the Split Bengal Gram is cooked well, we need to soak it for a minimum of 2 hours before proceeding to cook it. I cooked it in a small traditional pressure cooker for about 10 minutes or 4 whistles, if you do not have a pressure cooker you can directly boil them in a pan till they are completely tender and cooked. This will take about 20 minutes.
Once the lentils are cooked through, you need to prepare for the curry. I made a spicy & tangy Indian curry base for these lentils because they do need some flavor. Start with tempering hot oil with dried red chili, cumin and mustard followed by chopped ginger garlic and onions.
Pro-tip – Use extra mustard seeds than usual while cooking lentils like Split Bengal Gram, they help enhance the flavor.
Once the onions are well cooked, add in the tomatoes and cover and cook till they are pulpy and well incorporated to form a gravy base. This base is extremely important to master in any recipe. If the onions are under-cooked you end up raw onion taste in your gravy and if the tomatoes are not well done you dont get the desired taste. I still goof up many times but practice is the key here. Once you can make a simple gravy base perfectly, all Indian recipes seem easy 🙂 This is a pro-tip which my mum shared with me when I first started cooking!
Coming back to the recipe, once the tomatoes are cooked through, add the spices – red chili powder, coriander powder, cumin powder (1 teaspoon each), half a teaspoon of turmeric and salt to taste.
Mix this well till the spices are cooked and well incorporated.
Once this is done, it is time to add the cooked Split Bengal Gram and mix them well with the gravy. Add some water to the gravy if you want a thinner consistency and adjust the salt. Let this simmer for another 5 minutes on a low flame.
Heres the final step the tadka or the second tempering. This is completely optional and you can do away with it if you do not like added garlic flavor or don’t want to add extra oil. Here you temper some chopped garlic in hot oil/ ghee till the garlic is golden brown and add this oil to the lentil mixture. Mix the tempered garlic well with the lentils and garnish with fresh coriander.
This can be eaten by itself as a spicy thick soup or make a drier version to eat with rotis or serve with rice. My favorite is the drier version with rotis! 🙂
I try to make my recipes wholesome and full of nutrients. They need not always be low in calorie content but they are definitely nutritious and most of them have a high protein content. Since it is easier to get higher protien from meats I initially started created only meat-based dishes. But I’ve read a lot about protien from vegetarian sources and the benefits for vegetarian and vegan meals. This is why try to incorporate vegetarian food in my cooking too. Indian cooking has a large number of vegetarian options and trust me they all taste amazing! I will try to share and develop as many vegetarian dishes as I can which have a high nutritional value and taste yum. Till then, do give this Dal/ Lentil gravy a try and let me know how you liked it!
- 2 small Dried Red Chillies (use 1 if you want a milder version)
- 1 teaspoon Cumin Seeds
- 1 tablespoon Mustard Seeds
- 1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste/ mince
- 1 teaspoon oil ( an additional teaspoon for the second tempering)
- 1 teaspoon chopped garlic (optional, only if using for the second tempering)
- 1 large onion finely chopped
- 1 large tomato finely chopped
- 2 cups Split Bengal Gram (boiled)
- 1 teaspoon each of cumin powder, coriander powder and chili powder
- 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric powder
- Salt to taste
- Garnishing – coriander, finely chopped onions and bell peppers (optional)
- Boil and cook the split Bengal gram in salted water till well done and set it aside.
- In a pan, heat the oil and temper it with cumin seeds, mustard seeds and dried red chilies. Once the mustard seeds crackle add the chopped ginger garlic paste and mix well to avoid the fibrous ginger from sticking to the pan.
- Once the ginger garlic is cooked add in the chopped onions and cover and cook them till they tenderize.
- Add the chopped tomatoes and once they are cooked through add the spices (cumin powder, coriander powder, chili powder, turmeric powder and salt) and mix the gravy base well till everything is incorporated.
- Cook this for around 5 minutes and then add the boiled lentils to the gravy.
- Adjust water and salt as per your choice and let it simmer for another 5 minutes before turning off the heat.
- Pre-serving optional step – Heat another teaspoon of oil in a smaller pan and fry chopped garlic till it is brown. Add to the lentil gravy and mix well.
- Serve with rotis/ flatbread or rice.