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Spiced Bengal Gram (Cholar Dal)

Spiced Bengal Gram (Cholar Dal)

Bengal gram is also known as chana dal or gram lentils. It is the most widely grown lentil in India. Matt yellow, with a rich nutty taste, gram lentils are used for making desserts, as well as being cooked with vegetables, or with meat to make dal gosht.

bar Spiced Bengal Gram (Cholar Dal)

Picture by Werner Van Peppen

Serves 4

155g Bengal gram or chana dal
¼ tsp turmeric
1 green chilli, slit lengthways
2 tbsp groundnut oil or sunflower oil
1 bay leaf
Pinch of asafoetida
2 green cardamoms, slightly crushed
1 inch piece cinnamon stick
¼ tsp nigella seeds
2 medium dried red chillies, stalks removed
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp coconut cream, plus extra to garnish
¼ tsp salt


Pick over the lentils to check for stones, then place in a sieve and wash under cold running water. Soak the lentils for 2 hours in 400ml of cold water. Drain and place in a saucepan with 250ml boiling water, the turmeric and green chilli. Simmer gently for 15-20 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Discard the green chilli and puree half the lentils in a blender. Set aside.
Heat the oil in a heavy-based pan. Add the bay leaf, asafoetida, cardamoms, cinnamon, nigella seeds, red chillies, and cumin. Stir for a minute and then carefully add the coconut cream and salt. Mix well. Tip in all the lentils, stir, and simmer for 5 minutes. Garnish with a swirl of coconut cream and serve hot with rice


Chholar dal is often served after a Hindu prayer ceremony and frequently contains raisins for sweetness.

(c) 2012

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