Maunika Gowardhan's Creamy Bengali Cholar Dal with Cardamom & Coconut

'One of my favourite lentil curries from the east of India, the flavours in this dish are lovely. The mild, smoky dried chillies in the spice powder mix work well with the chana dal and sweet raisins.'

This recipe is extracted from Thali by Maunika Gowardhan (Hardie Grant) Photography ©Sam A.Harris.

For the Dal 

  • 1.2 litres (40 fl oz/43/4 cups) water
  • 300 g (101/2 oz/11/2 cups) chana dal
  • 4 cloves
  • 1 heaped tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 heaped tsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp ghee or vegetable oil
  • 2 dried bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 green bird’s-eye chillies, slit lengthways
  • 30 g (1 oz) grated fresh or frozen coconut
  • 20 g (3/4 oz) raisins
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander (cilantro), to garnish
  • salt, to taste

For the ground spice mix


  1. Bring the water to the boil in a large saucepan, over a medium heat, then add the chana dal and return to the boil. Cook for 10–15 minutes, stirring often, and lifting off any foam that forms on the top with a slotted spoon.
  2. Add the cloves, turmeric, salt and sugar, and continue  simmering for a further 45 minutes until the dal is soft, stirring frequently to make sure it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Turn off the heat and remove and discard the cloves. Crush the dal lightly with a potato masher.
  3. To make the ground spice mix, put the cardamom seeds, cinnamon and chillies in a spice grinder to make a fine powder. Set aside.
  4. Heat the ghee or oil in a non-stick, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat. Add the bay leaves and cumin seeds and cook for a few seconds until they sizzle. Now add the green chillies and stir for 2–3 seconds. Add the coconut and fry for 2–3 minutes until it begins to turn light brown, then pour in the cooked chana dal, stirring well.
  5. Bring to the boil, then add the raisins and the spice mix.
  6. Simmer over a low heat for 4–5 minutes. Add the fresh coriander and serve warm on your thali with parathas, flatbreads such as luchis, or steamed rice.
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