Achari Channa Dal (VG, GF, LC)
Serves 6. Preparation and cooking time: 40 minutes plus soaking time.

Do not be intimidated by the long list of ingredients. They are mainly spices that give this hearty dal its delightful flavor, without making it heavy. We make extra dal for lunch the next day. Channa dal is a more substantial dal than moong. As cooler weather approaches, we look forward to preparing achari channa dal!

Ingredients
  • 1 cup channa dal picked over and soaked in 2 cups of water for at least 30 minutes
  • 3 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons oil
  • 1 tablespoon raw fennel seeds
  • 1 tablespoon nigella seeds (kalonji)
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (dhania)
  • crushed
  • 1 teaspoon fenugreek seeds (methi)
  • 1 teaspoon whole black pepper corns
  • 8 curry leaves (optional)
  • 1 medium-large yellow onion, minced (about 1½ cups)
  • 4 medium-sized plum tomatoes diced
  • 1 minced hot green chili pepper, or to taste (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon turmeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • A pinch of garam masala
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime or lemon juice
  • Chopped coriander for garnish (optional)
Steps
  1. Rinse the soaked dal in several changes of cold water till the water is almost clear. Drain. In a 3 quart, or larger heavy pot, cook the dal with 3 cups of water.
  2. First bring the dal to boil, cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes, till the dal is tender all the way through but still holds its shape.
  3. While the dal is cooking, mince the onion and dice the tomatoes.
  4. Heat oil in a heavy pan or pot. To the hot oil, add the fennel, nigella seeds, coriander seeds, fenugreek seeds, and whole pepper corn. The pepper corns will begin to pop so keep the pan partially covered to avoid splatters.
  5. Immediately add the onions and a pinch of salt. Add the curry leaves, if using. Cook partially covered on medium heat for 7-8 minutes till the onions are soft and lightly browned.
  6. Add the tomatoes and hot green chilli pepper and cook covered for another 7-8 minutes till the tomatoes break down and give up most of their liquid.
  7. Add the salt and the rest of the spices and cook while stirring for about a minute. Turn stove off.
  8. Spoon this mixture into the pot of cooked dal, stir well. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 minutes till flavors are well blended. Add the lime juice and coriander and serve hot.

The flavors improve the next day. Serve it with rice, brown rice, quinoa, couscous, Indian breads, or a good crusty whole grain bread. Our everyday rice is made without oil or salt so the amount of oil per serving is not much, but the flavor is substantial. A green salad will make it a complete meal. It makes for a delicious and gently filling bowl of slow carb goodness.

Variation: To the cooked onion and tomato mixture add a cup of finely grated zucchini (courgette) or yellow squash, grated butternut squash, or cooked eggplant. Add a little more of the spices to add flavor to the vegetables, and add an extra cup of water. This way you will have veggies in the dal as well. Alternately, add a cup or two of chopped baby spinach toward the end, then add the lime juice and fresh cilantro. Enjoy and savor a bowl for lunch!