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Classic Cookbooks: Chana Dal with Lamb

Although I love dried legumes and pulses more than most non-vegetarians, and although I love the vegetables and meat dishes in An Invitation to Indian Cooking, I tend to avoid the chapter on dals. I think this is because the first dal recipe I ever tried was Jaffrey’s moong dal. “This is North India’s most popular dal,” she writes, “and it is eaten with equal relish by toothless toddlers, husky farmers, and effete urban snobs.” That sounds delightful, right? But it calls for a full tablespoon of turmeric, which was definitely not to my taste. I wonder if my American turmeric is not so great or if it’s my American palate. What do you think?

Recently I had much better luck with her chana dal cooked with lamb. . Chana dal is a hulled and split dal whose grains are a little larger than split peas; it is a member of the chick pea family. In this recipe, it is cooked with so much lamb that it seemed more like lamb stew than a dal to me, but I certainly wasn’t complaining.

The technique here is almost identical to the chicken with sliced lemons and fried onions I made last week, but the taste is very different—much more “Indian,” somehow. I used the maximum amount of cayenne pepper and found the result to be just spicy enough, despite the fact that I’m usually kind of a wimp about spicy food. I used a boneless lamb shoulder roast and cut it up myself; the meat was a little tough but tasted delicious. This dish, like many dals, is garnished with crispy fried onions, which are so very good. In fact, I regularly rely on them to convince my husband that a dinner of lentils and rice is not a punishment.

About the author: Robin Bellinger recently escaped a career in book publishing, which was cutting into her cooking time. Now she's a freelance editor and can bake bread on Tuesday afternoon if she feels like it. She lives in Midtown Manhattan with her husband and blogs about cooking and crafting at home*economics.

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