This is a gentle and luxurious dal, nutty from the split chickpeas, and sweet and creamy from the cinnamon, cardamom, and coconut.
Serves 4 as part of a main course
1½ cups chana dal (split black chickpeas)
4 tablespoons desiccated or fresh grated coconut
2 tablespoons mustard oil or canola oil
3 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
1¾-inch piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 red bird’s eye chiles, slit lengthways
3 medium ripe tomatoes, chopped
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground cardamom (or finely ground seeds from 6 pods)
1¼ teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon sugar
Wash the chana dal in a few changes of cold water until the water runs clear, then soak for an hour in warm water. Put into a saucepan with twice the amount of water and boil for around 45 minutes, until soft, then leave to one side.
Put a frying pan over medium heat and toast the coconut until just starting to brown, stirring frequently, then tip into a bowl. Put the oil, garlic, ginger, and red chiles into the frying pan and stir until the garlic is starting to brown, then add the tomatoes. Cook for around 5 minutes, until the tomatoes break down into a paste.
Now add the spices, together with the salt and sugar. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes, then add the mixture to the chana dal, along with the toasted coconut, and stir well.
Taste your dal, adjusting the salt as need be, and topping up with hot water until it’s at a consistency you like. Cook through over medium heat for another 5 minutes or so to bring all the flavors together.