Bengal coconut dal

I have done away with fresh coconut because dried is so much easier, but if you have the time, fresh coconut is tastier.


  • 1.2 litres/2 pints water

  • 250g/9oz chana dhal (also called Bengal gram lentils), thoroughly cleaned

  • ½ tsp ground turmeric

  • 1 heaped tsp ground coriander

  • 1 tsp garam masala

  • salt, to taste

  • 2-3 tsp sugar

  • 2 tbsp mustard oil, unsalted butter or ghee

  • 5 green cardamom pods, lightly crushed

  • 1 tsp cumin seeds

  • 5 cloves

  • 1cm/½in cinnamon stick

  • ½ tsp brown mustard seeds

  • 1-2 dried red chillies

  • 2 dried bay leaves

  • 3 heaped tbsp flaked or desiccated coconut or ¼ small fresh coconut, flesh chopped into small cubes

Preparation method

  1. Heat the water, lentils and turmeric in a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for about an hour, or until soft. If necessary, add a bit of extra water.

  2. Stir in the coriander, garam masala, salt and sugar, to taste. Cook until the lentils are completely soft and beginning to break up.

  3. Heat the oil or butter in a small pan. Fry the cardamom pods, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, mustard seeds, chillies and bay leaves for 30 seconds. (Be careful as the seeds may pop a bit.) Add the coconut and stir until it turns golden-brown.

  4. To serve, stir the spice mix into the lentils and divide among four serving plates.

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