Friday, September 3, 2010


All over Latin America and India too, people eat legumes (beans and lentils), almost daily. Combined with grain they make it a complete protein. It could be corn, wheat or barley, but most often is rice.

From the infinitive “dalna,” which means “to split,” Indian bean dishes are usually called “dals.” Like our split peas, numerous Indian beans are split.

Many Indians do not eat meat, but thrive on dals. Not only are they nutritious, but also inexpensive and easy to prepare. Best of all they taste fabulous due to the fragrant spices utilized. You could set aside one day a week for dals. Because of the many varieties, one could go for months with a different dal each week. Or, use dals as an interesting side dish.

If you have a lot of spices in your cupboard that you hardly ever employ, dals may afford you the opportunity to use them. Spice mixtures are known as garam masalas, and they add wonderful warm flavour to dals. They may consist of cinnamon, cardamom, cloves, black pepper, nutmeg and other spices. Masala means mixture, so use those most pleasing to you and mix it up. If you don’t have a lot of spices, you can purchase a single garam masala in the spice section of any supermarket.

Actual Chana Dal is made with hard to find, split garbanzo beans, but a bag of dried yellow split peas is a reasonable substitute. If you have a slow-cooker or a pressure cooker, dals are as easy as making coffee. If you don’t, they are as easy as making tea.

Chana Dal
2 cups dried yellow split peas
6 cups water
1 large onion
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 teaspoons garam masala
salt to taste
Chop the onion and fry in oil. Caramelize it starting with medium high heat, then lower it and stir frequently to avoid burning it. While the onion is browning, simmer the peas in salted water until tender, as package directs.

When the onions are browned, add the garam masala to the skillet. Stir well and then add the onion mixture to the peas.

Serve over steamed rice. You can put a spoonful of plain yoghurt on the dal if you like.
If you’ve never made a dal, try this basic recipe. It’s delicious and a good way to use those untouched spices you may have on hand.

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