Tomato Chana Dal Spiced Curry Recipe

Tomato Chana Dal Spiced Curry Recipe Recipe

I rarely make this dish because Daddy, my father-in-law, prefers chana dal without tomatoes. But today, I made an exception and prepared the gram lentils with the remaining San Marzano tomatoes we harvested from our vegetable garden. The weather has been incredibly hot lately in the Bay Area and a few tomatoes are still peaking daily. 

First, I boiled the soaked chanal dal until softened. Then I prepared a gravy using the tomatoes, mixed chopped onions and a bit of ginger. The marriage of the natural sweetness from the onions with the tanginess from the tomatoes works well. Once the thick sauce is ready, I added the chanal dal, drizzled a bit of water to thin the texture of the dish and added the signature Indian finishing touch of garam masala. Lulu and the girls absolutely loved it! Hopefully Daddy will come around as well.

Ingredients

Yields: 8 servings

1 cup chana dal (dried garabanzo beans)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil (or any neutral oil)
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger garlic paste (click on the link for the recipe)
1 teaspoon garam masala
ΒΌ teaspoon turmeric powder
2 Serrano green chili peppers
1 teaspoon red chili powder, to taste
4 fresh curry leaves
4 small San Marzano tomatoes
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, cut into matchsticks
juice of half a lemon


Directions

In a bowl wash the chana dal thoroughly; pick out and discard any badly-shaped beans. Soak them for several hours or overnight. Drain as much liquid as possible. Set aside.

In a saucepan, combine the soaked chana dal, 1 teaspoon ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder and red chili powder. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of oil (I used garlic-infused oil). Add water; the water should cover the lentils entirely. Bring to a boil then lower to a gentle simmer and cook for about 35-40 minutes. Add salt half-way through the cooking process (it will bring out the natural flavor of the lentils and they'll be more tender) and keep stirring every now and then so the lentils don't stick to the bottom of the pot. The liquid should evaporate. Remove any liquid (if any). Note: For a faster cooking time, you could also cook the lentils in a pressure cooker. It would take only 15 minutes.

Using a paring knife, create a 2-inch incision in one of the Serrano peppers and cut the other one into thirds. Set aside.

This step is optional but I find tomato skin unpleasant. Here's a neat method to peel tomatoes. Make a small, shallow criss-cross cut at the bottom of the fresh tomatoes using a breadknife (I use a breadknife because the blade won't bruise the fruit). Fill a small saucepan with cold water and bring to a boil. Place the tomatoes in the boiling water and wait for at least 30 seconds. Remove the tomatoes quickly (I use a large strainer), then transfer to an ice cold bath to stop the cooking process. The skin of the tomatoes will come right off. Finely chop the tomato flesh. Set aside.

In a large pan, heat the rest of the oil. Cook the onions for about 6-8 minutes until soft and nicely golden. Leaving as much oil as possible in the pan, transfer to a platter. Set aside.

Into the same pan, add the remaining ginger garlic paste, turmeric powder, ground coriander, whole Serrano pepper and red chili powder. Once the ginger garlic paste is fragrant, add the onions and finely chopped tomatoes. Cook for about 3-4 minutes over high heat. The mixture should turn into a thick paste. Add the curry leaves. Stir well. Add the garbanzo beans and 4 cups of water; you want the dish to be soupy. Bring to a boil and cook for about 3-4 minutes. Add the remaining Serrano pepper and 1½ teaspoons of salt. Lower to a gentle simmer for about 8-10 minutes and keep stirring every now and then so the beans don't stick to the bottom of the pot. Finish with fresh ginger, garam masala and a drizzle of lemon juice. Stir well.

Check the softness of the beans (add water and cook a bit longer if not fully cooked). The garbanzo beans should be soft when gently pressed and crushed between your thumb and index finger. Check seasoning. Transfer to a serving bowl.

Bon appétit!


Tips

You could cook this dish with canned garbanzo beans to save time. If you start with the dried beans, you might want to use  a pressure cooker for a faster cooking time.

For a thicker gravy,  simply dilute a bit of chickpea flour in water and add to the dish.

Indian cuisine almost always calls for ginger garlic paste. It tastes great and is very healthy for you as well. Just clean the ginger to remove any dirt. Peel the ginger root with a paring knife, then finely chop it. Place the chopped ginger and 5 cloves of garlic in a blender and add about 2 tablespoons (or more) of water for a smooth flow. Transfer to a small jar and store in the refrigerator. You can keep this paste for at least a week in the refrigerator.

chana dal = dried chickpea = dried garbanzo beans.

You can find the ingredients listed in most Indian markets.

Published By: Jacqueline Pham on September 9, 2013.


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