Dhal (dal, daal, dahl) is a term used for dried, split pulses (legumes), and also for the thick soupy-like dishes that are made using these pulses.
I have been playing around with a dhal recipe for a few months now and I’m keen to incorporate it into my regular repertoire as it’s a great way to include a meat free meal that is based on the nutrition powerhouses that are pulses. Dhal can be made using a variety of split pulses or lentils, such as red lentils, channa dhal (similar to yellow split peas) and even du puy lentils. Whichever pulse you choose to use, you are providing your body with a great source of plant based protein. Just 1/2 a cup of pulses provides as much protein as 1-2 cups of other plant based sources, such as quinoa and rice, respectively. They are also a good source of iron, folate and potassium. A great food group to include for everyone, but particularly those who choose to adopt a vegetarian or vegan diet.
The fibre contained in pulses is soluble fibre, resistant starch and insoluble fibre. Soluble fibre assists with digestive health, as well as helping to manage body weight, increase satiety, as well as improve blood sugar levels and assist in improving cholesterol levels. Insoluble fibre assists with digestive health and provides roughage for the body, assisting with bowels. Resistant starch is possibly one of the most important types of fibre, as it is starch that is resistant to digestion, meaning it will reach the end part of the digestive tract, where all the good bacteria live, providing a source of food for these bacteria (probiotics) to feed on, improving gut health. Resistant starch also assists in improving blood sugar levels and blood cholesterol levels.
We should be aiming to include about 1/2 a cup of pulses at least 2-3 times per week. Achieving this can be as simple as regularly consuming hummus or including kidney beans into tacos or brown lentils into a bolognese sauce or adding some chickpeas or cannellini beans into a casserole or stew.
Often a dhal is made on its own, then served with vegetables, meat or naan on the side. I have decided to add some eggplant and cauliflower to this particular dish as the flavours work really well, it helps to bulk out the dish, increases the overall vegetable content of the meal, and the kids happily eat the eggplant, which they wouldn’t if I served it up on its own. The kids absolutely loved this meal the most recent time I made it, and I think it’s because I finally got the spice combination right, meaning that it wasn’t too spicy for them. All three of their bowls were clean at the end of the meal.
If you are making this for adults only, I would increase the mustard seeds and garam masala by half to add a little bit of punch. If you are adults sharing this meal with children and would like a bit more heat, you can add some chilli flakes or fresh chilli at the end to spice things up.
- 2 cups channa dhal or yellow split peas
- 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
- 1 brown onion, diced
- 6 cloves garlic, crushed
- 10g ginger grated
- 1 tsp yellow mustard seeds
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 1 tsp garam masala
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- 6-8 curry leaves
- 1/4 cup cashews, finely chopped
- 400g crushed tomatoes
- 400ml coconut milk
- 1L water
- 1 medium eggplant, diced
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 cups cauliflower, cut into small florets
- Place channa dhal or split peas into a bowl and cover with water. Leave to soak for at least 1 hour.
- Place the diced eggplant into a bowl and add salt. Toss and leave to sit for 20 minutes. Rinse off the salt and pat dry with paper towel. Set aside.
- Heat a large crockpot or saucepan over medium heat, add onion and sauté for 3-4 minutes until translucent. Add the ginger, garlic, mustard seeds, cumin seeds and fennel seeds and cook, stirring for a further 2-3 minutes. Add the remainder of the spices, curry leaves, cashews and tomatoes and stir to form a thick paste.
- Add the coconut milk, soaked pulses, eggplant and water and bring to the boil. Once boiled, reduce the heat and allow to simmer for at least an hour, stirring occasionally, until the pulses are tender but have not turned to mush. Add more water if needed.
- Once 20 minutes of cooking time has passed, add the cauliflower and continue cooking until the pulses are tender.
- Once cooked, serve with steamed rice or naan.